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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 17:45 GMT
Tories seek to combat youth crime
By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

Shadow ministers have hosted a Commons summit aimed at coming up with fresh proposals to tackle what they believe is the hidden crisis of youth crime.

Children more likely to be victims of crime
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said in a survey almost half of young boys had admitted carrying a knife at some time in the past year.

And controversial Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Brian Paddick - famous for his softly, softly experiment on cannabis possession in Brixton, south London - said youngsters were disproportionately involved in crime.

But this summit, under the heading Action on Crime, also stressed the fact that youngsters were twice as likely to be victims of crime as adults.

What was needed, said Mr Davis, was a greater emphasis on rehabilitation, particularly for those youngsters driven to crime by drug addiction, and ways of diverting youngsters from crime.

Turning to alternative ways of dealing with drug addicts, he said more camps similar to that currently run by former Royal Marine Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Philpott should be set up across the country.

Drug battle

Colonel Philpott operates the C-Far project for prolific criminals aged 18-to-24 in Highampton, Devon.

The 11-week residential "life change" course is followed by a nine-month support programme in the community.

Mr Davis said a Conservative government would take it as a model for other centres around the country.

"In combating youth crime it is vital to fight the battle on drugs. Drugs destroy lives and render all our efforts to deal with youth crime worthless.

Police officers on beat
The Tories want more police in schools
" We will expand residential rehab places, forcing people to choose between cleaning up their act or prison, and encourage random drug testing in schools to identify users as early as possible," Mr Davis told the conference.

But he added: "Young people are not only the perpetrators, they are all too often the victims.

Police officers

"Young people should be concerned with studying and having a good time with their friends, not the fear of being robbed or attacked."

Shadow minister Cheryl Gillan said the Tories would look at placing more police officers in school, an idea currently being piloted by the government.

That had the effect of reducing crime and bullying both inside schools and in the local area.

Some head teachers were concerned about the effect of such schemes but once they had seen the benefits, often came around to the idea.

Similarly, she said it was time to look at a more comprehensive, national strategy against bullying in schools.

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