A police initiative in North Lanarkshire has cut serious violent crime by 20% by identifying and tackling problem families and working with agencies to help find work for young people in trouble using a mix of persuasion and compulsion..
Statistics from the police division show there have been 90 fewer victims of serious assault in the past year – with estimated savings of £2 million for the police and NHS: dramatic results by anyone’s standards.
Like everywhere else there are a small number of people responsible for most of the crime. By concentrating on them, the results have been astounding:
Youth disorder reduced by 43% in the last two years;
serious assaults reduced by 20% last year and down a further 14% so far this financial year;
overall violence cut by 22%, including murder and attempted murder.
Having been identified as been on the verge of crime, the kids are taken on Outward Bound weekends after initially working with the police for a few months, They get to know the police and the police get to know them and barriers are broken down. Following from that the kids may go into training or employment, through contacts with other agencies.
Some kids come from families with maybe three generations of worklessness. They are people who are alienated from normal society and breaking that mould requires proactive work.
It seems that the police almost act like surrogate parents, role models which the kids have never had. And it may seem like it’s hardly the cops’ jobs, but whatever anyone says, if it works, it works. It costs £40,000 to keep a person in prison for a year; and when they come out, they are virtually unemployable. This is vastly cheaper, and kids without prison records are much easier to get into work.
I hope Kenny MacAskill will look very carefully at this scheme and its cost effectiveness with a view to suggesting spreading it over a wider area, and then maybe over all of Scotland.
A saving of that size over the entire country would make a huge difference financially, but think how much safer the streets would be.
Let’s also hope that the police can work too with Shona Robison, the sports minister, with a view to getting one of the hub sports facilities that come as part of the Commonwealth games. Although I’m no sportsman myself, I’m convinced that in sport lies the answer to many of our youths’ problems.