Sick of constantly being branded thugs, yobs or hoodies, a group of youths have taken matters into their own hands.
The young activists from across the Portsmouth area set themselves the target of changing people’s views and showing them that not all kids are troublemakers.
They believe over-sensationalised national media coverage of out-of-control teenagers involved in crime or gang culture has created an unjustified fear of young people.
Less than six per cent of crime in Portsmouth in 2009-2010 was committed by youths – most of which was petty crime such as shoplifting – and 97 per cent of young people have never been involved with the criminal justice system at all.
Dillon Bowles, 14, from Paulsgrove, is a pupil at King Richards School and one of the committee members spearheading Safer Portsmouth Partnership’s campaign, The Kids Are Alright.
The Year 10 student says: ‘We want to make older people see that the younger ones are not all the same and they shouldn’t just assume we are.
‘I know there are some youngsters out there that like to cause trouble, but everyone that I know is really sensible and would never go out smashing things up or causing grief to the public.
‘It’s such a small minority of youngsters that do that and they are spoiling it for the rest of us.’
Dillon and seven other youngsters are holding an event tomorrow in Commercial Road, Portsmouth to showcase young people’s talents and the range of activities they can get involved in, such as street dancing and singing.
They will also be talking to members of the public in a bid to reach out to older generations and break through the common misconception that all teenagers are out to cause trouble.
A recent residents’ survey carried out by Ipsos MORI in Portsmouth showed that 50 per cent of respondents were worried about youth crime and were particularly worried about teenagers hanging around the streets.
Those most concerned were in the 18 to 24-year-old bracket, families living in social housing or minority groups.
But the reality is that youth crime has been steadily declining in the past decade and has fallen by 25 per cent since 2006.
Programmes run by the city council’s Preventing Youth Offending team and voluntary organisations such as Motiv8 have helped drive youth custody down to its lowest level since its peak in 1995.
Charlie Adie, young people’s champion for the Safer Portsmouth Partnership, said: ‘We shouldn’t be afraid of young people, because they are far more likely to make a positive contribution to society rather than involved in crime.
‘There is a lot of anxiety about young people, especially when they’re hanging out on the streets, but there really shouldn’t be because most of them are not doing anything wrong.
‘We want to try to promote a more positive image of young people – it would be great if people’s opinions of them were base on fact rather than just stereotypes.’
The Kids Are Alright campaign was launched on Monday and runs through to April 18 and the showcase on Commercial Road will take place from 10am to 2pm tomorrow.
For more information on what’s on in Portsmouth for teenagers, visit iyssportsmouth.info/index.htm.