Positive action helps cut youth crime in half

POLICE have long been whispering about a "tipping point" in Glasgow youth crime.

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Projects are helping keep young people out of crime
Projects are helping keep young people out of crime

Now it has arrived.

The very latest figures show that serious violent offending by under-18s in the city nearly halved in 2012-13.

There were 104 cases of crimes such as serious ­assault, robbery, threats and attempted murder in the year, down 47% from 2011-12 and down 73% from 2007-2008, the end of the old Labour-Liberal Democrat administration's ill-fated "war on neds".

The new figures were announced today by delighted social work bosses at Glasgow City Council, which, as previously revealed by the Evening Times recorded overall youth crime down 12% in 2012-13.

Senior police officers earlier said a "tipping point" would be reached as a ­targeted a small number ­serial offenders - while ­diverting those on the edges of trouble.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan - the now retired champion of the Violence Reduction Unit - previously noticed that violence fell where police and other workers worked with prolific gangfighters.

He said: "It wasn't just the guys we were involved with, the 400 or so, who were being less violent. ­Violence by other men in the area was down too.

"Why? Because there were fewer people to fight with."

Such smart tactics ­appear to be working. Sean McKendrick, the senior social worker who chairs Glasgow's Youth Justice Strategy Group, said: "Youth ­Offending has been falling now for the last six years and this is a remarkable achievement for the city.

"Our evidence-based approach enables us to divert young people involved in low-level offending while targeting our resources at those vulnerable young ­people and families who need them most."

Glasgow and the rest of Scotland switched tactics on youth crime at around the time the old Labour government of Jack McConnell left office, although this wasn't just a matter of ­party politics.

Rhetoric on the "war on neds" was dropped - as were targets for dealing with the most prolific offenders.

Instead a huge focus was put on good solid youth work, such as the work done by charities like Urban Fox, Aberlour and the Glasgow Community Safety Services in Calton.

The number of young people referred to the city's children's reporter on ­offending grounds has since dropped dramatically.

Back in 2006-2007 there were 2913 children and young people referred.

By 2011-12 that number was 808. Last year it was 628. That was a drop of 78% in six years or 22% in 12 months.

As previously reported by the Evening Times, overall youth crime fell 12% in 2012-13 to 7725.

Most of that figure was made up of minor offences such as petty assault, littering, public boozing, which were down 5%. The number of sexual offences, however, continues to buck overall youth crime trends.

There were 70 committed by children and young ­people in 2012-13, up 8% on the year before and 17% on 2007-2008.

Council chiefs said they believed this was because of changes in legislation that has seen more charges and prosecutions of sex offences. Sex crime by adults was also up in Glasgow.

Malcolm Cunning, the ­Labour councillor who ­answers for social care on the local authority's ruling cabinet set, said: "The latest youth justice figures highlight a remarkable achievement for Glasgow.

"I suspect a great many people had previously felt quite hopeless about the prospect of turning around the issue of youth crime.

"But this report highlights the benefits of working to a clear strategy that's built upon the evidence for what works and pulls together all of the agencies with a responsibility to young people."

HE continued: "We know that the overwhelming majority of young people are law abiding citizens or can be quickly diverted down a better path if they show signs of getting into trouble.

"That allows us to target our efforts at the young ­people and their families with the most challenging issues and this approach has helped us to win substantial gains.

"We can never say we have solved youth crime, but I know we have a highly committed team in place. It all helps to make the city a safer place and that has to be good news for Glasgow."

Crucially public perception of youth crime is also falling. Storm calls - when people ring up the police to complain about something - are carefully measured.

In 2012-13, there were 15,608 calls complaining about youths in Glasgow, usually that they were drinking in the street or causing a disturbance.

That is a huge number. But it is down from 60,580 in 2006-2007. The drop: 74% in seven years.

Last year, the Evening Times revealed the number of children under-16 caught with a knife in the whole of Strathclyde had dropped by 75% in six years.

Overall offending in Glasgow also continues to decline - with figures for the kind of offending most usually associated with youths, such as vandalism, falling.

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