Police attempt to brid
‘It's good to talk’, according to Strathclyde Police, who are trying to get young people and the elderly to throw away their prejudices.
Words: Stephen Naysmith
lT IS ONE of the deepest conflicts in British society, yet rarely addressed. Young people feel they are blamed for every ill going, while older Scots are sick to death of having to negotiate intimidating gangs outside the local shops, or listen to foul language when they complain about misbehaviour.
Now Strathclyde Police — more used to picking up the pieces than playing peacemaker — is trying to tackle the entrenched Opinions of both sides.
As part of the Spotlight Initiative, a provocatively- titled ’proximity conference’ is being held in Glasgow on Monday 10 November to address the conflict between young and old.
Strathclyde Police admits unruly youngsters can be seen as the bane of their officers’ lives. More than 3 third of all crime in Scotland is carried out by eight to twenty-year olds. Yet young people are also predominantly the victims of crime, and perhaps surprisingly, the police recognise their grievances.
Chief Inspector Caroline Scott, of the Spotlight Initiative, believes common ground can be found. ’lt is true that young people are responsible for the most crime but they are the most likely victims too,’ she said.
Scott admits that Spotlight itself has been guilty of ignoring y0ungsters in its own consultation exercises. ’How many young folk do we consult? They don’t have a voice which mirrors the rest of sooety. They
When police offered youngsters free passes for a Govan swimming baths, the response was enthusiastic. Ironically, the pool has since
fallen victim to council closures.
don’t vote, and politiCians don’t listen to them,' she says.
Bringing it down to the personal level can help, Scott suggests. ’If it is their granny the reality is youngsters do care, while grandparents understand the needs of their own grandchildren.’
Linda Martin, a spokeswoman for Strathclyde Elderly Forum, welcomed the initiative. ’There are
stereotypes on both sides,' she said. ’There is a stubborn perception among older people that they are likely to become Victims of crime, when the opposite is true.’
However, when The List took the issue to Govan in Glasgow, there was scepticism from y0ung people. Steven McNeil, sixteen, is already in trouble with the law for breaking into cars — a big problem in the area at present.
’It sounds like a waste of time,’ he said. 'They will Just talk all day and then nothing Will change.’
His friend Mick Harford, fifteen, said young people had little option but to hang around on the streets: 'There is nothing else for folk to do. If you haven’t got money you Just hang around with your pals.’
Meanwhile, Susan Jennings, proiect coordinator at the Govan Youth Information Protect, also had doubts: ’If they are asking young people to sit through a talking shop, I would guess that they are targeting the better behaved youngsters in the first place.’
For the idea to be a success, it would have to capture the imagination of partiCipants and offer
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them real change, she argued. 'They would have to be listened to and taken seriously,’ Jennings added.
Scott accepts the conference will have to convince both groups that change is possible. ’We hope that "movers and shakers” from Central Government and local councils will be there to take views on board,’ she explained.
She denied the youngsters invited would be ’hand- picked’. 'We are inviting people who have been involved in petty crime and have lived in care or been in trouble with the authorities. It will not be a sanitised group,’ she says.
Scott claimed councils had to consider whether they were providing the right kind of facilities. She believes the police end up filling gaps with discos and other activities for children. 'We are making up for gaps in social provision all over the place,’ she said.
When police offered youngsters free passes for a Govan swimming baths, she points out, the response was enthusiastic.
Ironically, that pool has since fallen victim to council closures. ’It isn't just providing facilities that is a problem, it is making sure that young peOple have the opportunity to use them,’ commented Jennings.
The names of the young people have been changed.
And ﬁnally. . . people power can’t stop Kitizen Kane
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24 Oct-6 Nov 1997 THEIJSTS