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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 06:01 GMT 07:01 UK
Police chief's youth curfew fear
Barbara Wilding out at work
Barbara Wilding says she likes to spend 70% of her time out in communities
The chief constable of South Wales has said curfews for young people to combat anti-social behaviour should only be used as a last resort.

Barbara Wilding said the curfew in the Splott area of Cardiff, which started last week, worried her.

She wants to ensure that officers and agencies try every other method of controlling youngsters before another curfew is sanctioned.

Requests for any future schemes will have to be made in writing to senior officers at headquarters.

The Splott scheme is scheduled to run until November under new Home Office powers for police to break up groups of youngsters they believe are causing a nuisance for local people late at night.

Children under the age of 16 who are on the streets can also be taken home.

The Section 30 dispersal notice is one of the new powers available to police and local authorities under the Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003.

Youngsters on the streets of Splott face the police crackdown

But in an interview with BBC Wales, Ms Wilding said: "Curfews should be the last resort".

"When we go for curfews it excites the public, both those for and those against them," she said.

"We have to be very sure that everything possible has been done to manage the problem before we go there.

"I know that in Cardiff we went through a significant number of hoops to try to manage the problem and it was a last resort.

"Demonising of children by putting lots of orders against them is not where I come from because it shows that the agencies have failed."

Ms Wilding said that there had to be a balance, recognising the positive contributions many young people make, while managing those "very disruptive elements."

She said warning letters were normally sufficient to deal with all but a hardcore of one or two problem young people.

'Manage the knocks'

The chief constable said the force was also keen to continue to work with licensees to influence them to discourage binge drinking.

Ms Wilding, who came to Wales from the Metropolitan Police, is still getting to know her patch, spending 70% of her time out in communities, where she hopes her role is to be visible and "to inspire."

She admits she is still shocked by the level of social deprivation in the south Wales valleys, but also positive of plans and potential investment within them.

To combat a shortage of officers on the beat, she wants to bring in more police posts in shopping centres, and use new technology in community booths, such as "virtual" police officers on the web.

Ms Wilding, in post for eight months and one of only four female chief constables in England and Wales, said she was leading a mentoring programme aimed at encouraging more women senior police officers.

"We are not superwomen, we manage the knocks, and have some successes, and have a family, a private life, those kinds of things," she said.

"My idea of success is when there are as many mediocre women in senior positions as mediocre men."

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