Page last updated at 17:27 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 18:27 UK

Redruth curfew two weeks on

Two weeks ago a voluntary curfew for youngsters began in the Cornish town of Redruth. BBC reporter Alex Bushill went on patrol with the police to see whether Operation Goodnight had been a success.

Police and teenagers in Redruth
Other forces across England are monitoring progress in Redruth

It's nearly 9pm and the streets are eerily quiet.

Where once there were gaggles of children grouped on street corners there is now simply calm.

The town is Redruth, the estate is Close Hill.

For the last two weeks children here have been subjected to a social experiment.

There has been a curfew here, where anyone under 10 has to be indoors by 8pm, and those under 16 have to be home by 9pm.

This was a Cornish community blighted by vandalism, graffiti and underage drinking, but after spending the night on the streets of this estate I notice a change seems to have taken place.

I joined Police Community Support Officer Mike Tidlesley who roams the streets to make sure children don't.

It's working because I'm not having to go down the police station with Andrew - spending four or five hours at a time
Michael Knowles
Andrew's father

He soon stumbles across one child he knows all too well.

Ambling about on his push bike, the boy is soon dispatched off home.

He may grumble, but with just two minutes to go before the curfew kicks in he decides discretion is the better part of valour and slinks off into the night.

PCSO Tildesley says the child has not broken the curfew yet, but he will be sure to check up later.

Devon and Cornwall Police are behind what is believed to be the first curfew of its kind anywhere in the country.

Building consensus

In the two weeks since Operation Goodnight began they have become convinced it has been successful in getting anti-social behaviour reduced.

Official figures will be released in a month's time, when the school holidays end and the curfew is lifted.

But they are keen to stress this scheme is voluntary.

Although they can issue social orders against parents or children who flout the curfew, police emphasise this type of community policing is a product of building a consensus with local residents - bottom-up, not top-down policing.

And they may be winning over the critics.

When the curfew was announced, there were many who scoffed at the thought of being told to go home at a certain hour.

You're punishing the majority of children who behave for the crimes of a few...and potentially those causing the trouble aren't even under 16
Hannah Benny
Children's Right Alliance

Among them are father and son Michael and Andrew Knowles

Andrew, 15, has been in trouble with the authorities often and he was adamant he would ignore the curfew, regardless of the consequences.

At the time his father told the BBC that a curfew was part of a "nanny state."

"I pay my taxes, why should I be told what to do?" Mr Knowles said.

But a fortnight later he has had a change of heart.

He told me his son had been home every night on time, that the family was getting along well and that the curfew had given his family the structure it had been missing.

"It's working because I'm not having to go down the police station with Andrew - spending four or five hours at a time, " Mr Knowles says.

His mind has changed about the scheme: "Yes, I was wrong and glad to admit it."

'Majority being punished'

There are others who aren't so convinced.

Hannah Benny, 18, from Penzance, who represents the Children's Right Alliance in England, knows what it is like to grow up in West Cornwall, one of the poorest parts of the country with few facilities and poor job prospects.

For her the curfew is unfair.

"You're punishing the majority of children who behave for the crimes of a few...and potentially those causing the trouble aren't even under 16," she said.

"If a few adults broke the law, you wouldn't impose a curfew on every adult in the community."

At the end of PCSO Tildesley's rounds at the estate there has been no trouble, just the sound of silence.

And so another uneventful but successful night for the police, and they are keen to stress the effect they are having on the ground.

They know that with other forces watching closely what happens here, this curfew could have far-reaching consequences far beyond this now sleepy Cornish town.


SEE ALSO
Peaceful start for youth curfew
26 Jul 08 |  Cornwall
Curfew 'successful' before launch
24 Jul 08 |  Cornwall
Welsh police could adopt curfew
27 Jul 08 |  Cornwall

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