Page last updated at 00:15 GMT, Sunday, 22 February 2009

Children out late 'unacceptable'

A young drinker in Tyneside (13-02-2009)
Children out drinking late at night can become victims of crime

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith says it is unacceptable for parents not to know what their children are up to at night.

She was speaking after police in 27 council areas in England picked up and returned 120 youngsters late on Friday.

Operation Staysafe was intended to stop children becoming victims of crime or being drawn into criminal behaviour.

More than 1,000 young people were spoken to by Staysafe teams, and 103 were referred to other services, according to Home Office figures.

Some children and their parents were directed to family support teams, parenting programmes and alcohol awareness projects.

Drink and drugs

Police spotted scores of teenagers who were drunk, abusing drugs or had nowhere to stay.

They encountered large groups behaving anti-socially, and children being out far too late without an adult.

Ms Smith said Operation Staysafe had highlighted the role parents must play to alleviate the problems.

I want to send the clear message to parents that not knowing where your child is at night or allowing them to stay out late on their own is unacceptable
Jacqui Smith

"Most parents would be horrified to receive a knock on the door from police returning their child to them," she said.

"But there are too many who think it is acceptable to allow their child to stay out late where they may be vulnerable to becoming victims of crime or committing crime.

"I want to send the clear message to parents that not knowing where your child is at night or allowing them to stay out late on their own is unacceptable and I want to reassure communities that we are working to keep children safe from harm and tackle youth crime and disorder head on."

In one area of the north-west, seven girls were taken to safety during Friday's operation. They included:

  • Two girls aged 16 and 17 who were found under railway arches said to be "intoxicated and vulnerable". They had been approached by males who, it was later discovered, had offered them drugs.
  • A 17-year-old girl who had consumed half a bottle of vodka.
  • Two girls aged 14 and 15 who were "found in an inebriated state".
  • Two 16-year-old girls found drunk and in the company of a 19-year-old man.

All seven were picked up by their parents who were interviewed by social workers privately and with their children.

Anti-social

The Staysafe approach was pioneered by Merseyside Police, whose deputy chief constable Bernard Lawson welcomed the involvement of other forces.

"Despite the fact that many young people have never offended, youth crime and anti-social behaviour are major sources of public concern to neighbourhoods," he said.

"Importantly, Operation Staysafe allows the early intervention by police and support services with young people to prevent those youths becoming involved in criminal activity or becoming victims of crime themselves.

"It can help to identify reasons for the young person being on the street late at night and intervene where necessary to protect our most vulnerable."


The 27 areas are taking part in the Operation Staysafe weekend were: Bournemouth, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Camden, Croydon, Darlington, Halton, Hartlepool, Kingston upon Hull, Knowsley, Lancashire, Leeds, Liverpool, North Lincolnshire, Peterborough, Plymouth, Rotherham, Sandwell, Slough, Southampton, South Tyneside, Southend, St. Helens, Tameside, Torbay and Wigan.

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