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Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 18:08 GMT
Teenage curfews warning
Child curfew graphic
Ministers are warned they face generating distrust
The UK Government has been warned that it runs the risk of "destroying communities" with its proposals to introduce curfews on teenagers.

Scottish community worker and campaigner Stuart Waiton, 33, said the plans did nothing to combat the causes of crime but would add to the levels of fear and paranoia in communities.

Mr Waiton said a pilot scheme conducted on three Scottish housing estates was a "gimmick" and a "failure".

The real problem is a perception that kids hanging around the streets are responsible for much of the local crime

Community campaigner, Stuart Waiton
He has warned Home Secretary Jack Straw that proposed schemes across England and Wales would only add to the distrust between young and old.

Recalling the pilot scheme in Hamilton, near Glasgow, Mr Waiton said it "was not helpful".

"The Hamilton curfew was launched as a child safety initiative but it wasn't needed.

"The reduction in crime was very minimal and it only increased fear and paranoia among adults about their own area.

"The real problem is a perception that kids hanging around the streets are responsible for much of the local crime.

Home Secretary Jack Straw
Jack Straw is putting forward the proposals
"But in actual fact they are just doing the same type of thing that you and me did when we were a similar age," said Mr Waiton.

He added that given the misguided perception about most teenagers, the public would be prepared to accept more "police intervention" in their communities.

Mr Waiton believes that "fear and ignorance" were fuelling the spread of curfews and CCTV schemes.

Legislation for teenage curfews has also been rejected by John Scott of the Scottish Human Rights Centre.

He said: "It is unfortunate that Jack Straw seems set to continue what happened in Hamilton when it is very debatable if it was successful.

"In my opinion it did not work and it should not be repeated."

However, these views have been described as "misinformed" by Hamilton police who said the child safety initiative was a great success.

Chief superintendent Louis Munn said: "The child safety initiative has been a success and managed to cut juvenile crime by 49% in its pilot year.

'At risk from crime'

"The scheme has now been extended to cover the whole of Hamilton and the neighbouring areas of Larkhall and Blantyre.

"I have to stress, however, that the initiative is not a curfew.

"We do not sweep the streets of young people at night but escort home those we feel are involved in or at risk from crime.

Mr Munn said the success of the project was down to its partnership approach.

Police officer on the beat
The Scottish scheme was hailed a success
"The local council has invested 3.5m in developing local youth cafes.

"These give young people somewhere to go at night and allow us to develop better relations with the community."

But he conceded that the child safety initiative was a resource intensive scheme and required tough decisions to be made about priorities.

"What's good for us might not be good for other forces," he said.

"It is an approach which is worth looking at but it very much depends on the area.

"I would be extremely reluctant to go down the road of legislation which imposed this approach on other forces."

The Scottish Police Federation also gave its backing to child safety initiatives but warned they needed extra resources.

Federation chair Norrie Flowers said: "The initiative in Hamilton has been a success and we support it.

"Any scheme can put responsibility back onto the community is better for everyone.

"But for this type of initiative to work, you cannot scrimp on numbers. You need officers on the street.

"Without the proper resources, initiatives like this are doomed to fail in the long-term."

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See also:

04 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Teen curfews 'to combat yobs'
03 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair backs down on fining 'louts'
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