Parents will be warned of gang links

Parents will be summoned to a police station to be warned if their children are becoming embroiled in gang activity involving knives and under-age drinking. A pioneering scheme targeting those on the fringes of teenage gangs was unveiled yesterday on the south side of Glasgow. Officers will take the names and addresses of all young people they find during anti-gang operations, even if they are not charged. The parents of children whose names crop up more than once will receive "alert" letters, including an invitation to the local police station to discuss the danger of being lured into violent or antisocial behaviour.

The scheme is based on new contact cards filled out by officers for Glasgow City Council's restorative justice service. A spokeswoman for the council said: "We are very excited about this new development on the south side. "Intervention at an early stage will give parents a chance to discuss their child's behaviour in a safe environment with specially trained officers. We are confident this will prevent young people from moving on to more serious offending." A police spokeswoman said: "This is our way of informing parents their son or daughter has been found in a situation or location which gave cause for concern. While they are not committing a crime, we believe their parents should be informed."

In parts of the south side, the cards scheme is being backed by an even stronger police initiative revealed yesterday. Crossroads, a project in Cathcart, takes young people on the edge of gang activity to Polmont young offenders' institution to meet young men whose lives have been ruined by acts of violence. Hugh McMillan, superintendent at Cathcart, said: "We are identifying the kids who are not the real main offenders, the ones on the periphery who are saveable, and trying to bring them on board." The schemes evolved from Operation Tag, a campaign against territorial gangs on the south side which combines a tough police approach to persistent offenders with an education drive to bring home the danger of territorialism.

Launched in February, police have reported 227 people, including 27 for breaching bail or curfew conditions, and 88 for drinking in the street. A 24-year-old man has been reported to the procurator-fiscal for buying alcohol for an 11-year-old. Around 30 people have been reported for carrying a weapon during Operation Tag. Fourteen people have died in stabbings in the west of Scotland this year, four last weekend, bringing Strathclyde Police's tally of violent deaths to 23. This month, Scotland will launch its first nationwide knife amnesty. Some 220 wheelie bins fitted with a lock and key will be chained to police stations, a third of them in Strathclyde.

The campaign, from May 24, is being organised by Strathclyde Police's violence reduction unit. Inspector Tom Halbert said the campaign had been timed to coincide with the beginning of long summer evenings, which some officers call the "fighting season". He said: "I don't have any hard statistics, but in my previous experience within a police control room, there is a noticeable rise in levels of violence at key times of the year. "More people are likely to be out drinking particularly on a holiday weekend and they tend to stay out for longer. "If you introduce knives into the equation, you have a potential recipe for disaster. As we have seen from this weekend, lives can be tragically lost. "We need to limit young people's access to knives and to alcohol. However, it's imperative that we educate these young people about the dangers of carrying a knife."

David Leask
3 May 2006

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