For some, remembering what it was like to be young involves digging deep into the memory. For others, it’s not so far back to recall. But however long ago it was, one thing is for certain – growing up is not always easy. And the path you decide to take during your teenage years can dictate where you travel for the rest of your life – and where you end up.
For the lucky ones, supportive parents or other family members will be able to gently steer them in the right direction.
Others may stray from the path and need a firmer hand to guide them back to where they should be.
That is why people like PCs Mark Walsh and Jo Shields, whose selection as members of Hampshire Police’s dedicated Youth Offending team we report today, play such an important role.
As they point out, their job is not just about pursuing young criminals when things go wrong.
It’s about understanding the wider issues – family problems, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol – that affect young people.
We know that police are facing ever-tougher pressures on budgets and staffing – but we are encouraged by the progress they are making.
The falling number of custodial sentences and the drop in youth crime we report today show that the combination of encouragement and enforcement appears to be working.
As we approach the summer holidays – traditionally a time when problems with anti-social behaviour can increase – we would hope that trend will continue.
We must also remember that in these difficult times, young people are facing increased pressures, just as adults do.
There may be less money around. There may be fewer facilities funded by councils for them to use.
Initiatives like football matches organised by the police help as much as tougher measures like dispersal orders.
But in all this we must remember that the most effective method of all is parents who take an interest in their children, and who know where they are and what they are doing.