Young people are not all troublemakers. Far from it. And now that belief has been backed up by The News revealing today that a fifth of crimes committed by young people in Portsmouth last year were down to just six children.
These serial young offenders between 10 and 17 were behind hundreds of crimes – and probably led their victims to bemoan the ‘youth of today’ in general.
But while we maintain that the vast majority of young people are responsible, attention has to be paid to those who cause problems in their communities.
Whatever we may think of their lawless ways, the answer is not a simple as just locking them up. So we’re encouraged to see that the Safer Portsmouth Partnership – including the police, youth offending teams, voluntary organisations and charities – is working with these young offenders to try to change their lives for the better.
Of course there will be those who commit offences so serious that there is no option but to look at custodial sentences. But for others, the emphasis is rightly on trying to prevent reoffending.
Some may feel that helping young criminals, giving them support rather than punishment, sticks in the craw somewhat. But if that means they go on the straight and narrow in future, it’s well worth the effort.
Surely we all agree that turning young people into well-behaved members of society is a far better outcome than sending them to a young offenders’ institution?
That means considering cases individually rather than taking a broad brush approach. As Bruce Marr from Portsmouth City Council’s Preventing Youth Offending Project says, young offenders may have complex needs and factors in their lives that make them more likely to commit more crime
The partnership can assist young people in finding accommodation, find out who they are mixing with and suggest activities. Then there are training opportunities to improve job prospects.
The offender benefits because their life can be turned around – and the rest of us benefit from the reduction in youth crime. It’s a win-win situation.