Youths on fringe of gang culture targeted
Police try diversion tactics
POLICE call them the kids on the cusp, the perhaps one-infour young people in troubled areas who find themselves, often unwittingly, on the fringes of Scotland’s violent gang culture.
They are the boys – and sometimes girls – who don’t set out on a Friday night to get in a fight. But they can, and do.
Police have known for years how to deal with the real “core” troublemakers, the 5% who have more or less chosen violence and crime as a way of life.
“We’re getting good at that,” said John Carnochan, the detective chief superintendent who leads Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit. “The jails are full.”
But how do they keep other vulnerable young people out of trouble? It isn’t, as one senior officer said, rocket science: “Give them something to do.”The police buzzword is “diversion”: youngsters who are, say, playing five-a-side football or, as Mr Carnochan said, “going to chess club”, are not out fighting with each other.
Mr Carnochan yesterday found himself almost apologising for repeating himself. “I know it sounds hackneyed,” he said. “But it’s really about co-ordinating the delivery of a whole range of services for all these young people at risk.
“The young people of today want the same things as the young people of 50 years ago, they want something to do and they want somewhere to do it.
“So we need to be doing that for them.”
So what is there on offer? Steve House, the chief constable of Strathclyde, yesterday announced new football initiatives with new kit and footballs emblazoned with “Enough is Enough”, an antiviolence message.
More than 70 police officers have been trained in diversionary tactics, helping to spread best practice pioneering schemes across Scotland; everything from midnight basketball to music schemes, such as Strathclyde’s Hit the Beat.
Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, has earmarked another £200,000 for new ideas for work among Scotland’s most vulnerable youth. Thirty projects are already under consideration for funding.
Police, meanwhile, have a better idea than ever before of who – exactly who – is involved in gangs.
Officers across the country have facebook webpages, pictures and details of gang members and their associates. They Mr MacAskill’s constantly repeated view that short prison sentences are inappropriate is quite inconsistent with the rest of this approach.”
Many academics doubt claims that short jail terms work.
But Mr Carnochan yesterday stressed there would be no soft touch for persistent offenders.
He said: “For those who are not prepared to take those opportunities such as schools open, youth clubs, football, diversion and still persist in gangs, make no mistake about it every police force in Scotland will be robust in stopping and searching and arresting and targeting and making sure they go to prison if that’s what they need.” know who needs diversion. And they know who needs enforcement.
Bill Aitken, the Tory justice spokesman, yesterday welcomed plans for sports facilities in areas tortured by gangs. His party’s former leader, Iain Duncan Smith, had highlighted Glasgow gangs earlier this year, claiming – inaccurately – that Glasgow alone had 170, more, per capita, than London.
But Mr Aitken wants more than diversion. He wants more enforcement too. He said: “Those who continue to carry knives, commit crime and breach the peace have to expect that they will be dealt with appropriately. Therefore