Page last updated at 23:10 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 00:10 UK

Teenagers 'live in fear' of crime

Weapons seized in Glasgow
Many teenagers said they carried weapons for protection

Many Scottish schoolchildren live in fear of violent crime in their own neighbourhoods, a charity has claimed.

NCH Scotland said young people were as much the victims of violent crime as they were the perpetrators.

The study of youths from across the UK, including 200 in Scotland, found that the major reason for teenagers carrying knives or guns was for protection.

The charity is due to take part in a summit on gun crime being organised by the Scottish Government.

More than a third of those quizzed for the Step Inside Our Shoes survey, 36%, were worried about gangs in their area, while only 28% said they felt "very safe" in their local community.

The results also showed that 41% of respondents knew someone who had been affected by gun or knife crime, while 29% had been affected themselves.

Young people are as much the victims as the perpetrators of violent crime and they want safe communities
Andrew Girvan
NCH Scotland

Andrew Girvan, director of children's services for NCH Scotland, said it was important to stop generalising by painting young people as the problem.

Mr Girvan added that the findings of the survey provided a "dramatic insight into the thoughts and experiences of children and young people".

"Young people are as much the victims as the perpetrators of violent crime and they want safe communities, just as we all do," he said.

"These are young people who have real detailed knowledge about knife crime and gun culture, teenagers who know someone who has been stabbed and many young people who don't feel safe in their own neighbourhood.

"The over-riding message is that they are telling us to listen."

A 15-year-old from Glasgow told the survey: "I have carried a knife before to protect my mum."

And an 18-year-old from Irvine said: "I think carrying knives or guns makes people think they are bigger. It makes them feel safe on the street."

'Cultural problem'

NCH Scotland has called for children and young people to be involved in developing community youth services that enable them to play a role in tackling weapons crime.

It also wants funding for sustainable services to work with the most vulnerable youngsters, in a bid to help them reach their full potential.

Mr Girvan said: "The consultation has produced many positive suggestions from young people about how we can all act to solve this problem."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said a meeting had already been arranged with NCH Scotland to discuss its findings.

She added: "The issue of violence is a cultural problem that has been ingrained in parts of Scotland for too long.

"As part of our drive to reduce violence in Scotland we are tackling the root causes of drink, drugs and deprivation and investing cash seized from criminals to give our young people more positive opportunities through our CashBack scheme.

"We are also working to educate young people about the dangers and possible repercussions of carrying a weapon.

"This is in addition to the tough enforcement approach that has seen thousands of weapons taken off the streets."

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