Targeted activity programmes for young people in disadvantaged, high crime areas can dramatically reduce youth crime according to a new Nacro report published today.
Making a difference argues that neighbourhood activity programmes that engage young people's interest and provide opportunities for positive achievement can be highly effective in diverting their energies away from crime.
Also published today is Doing Something Positive, a Marks & Spencer sponsored guide to what works in reducing youth crime through youth activities, showcasing Nacro's work with young people. It highlights the important role played by volunteers from the community giving up their free time to make a difference to the lives of young people.
Examples of local projects that have produced marked reductions in youth crime include:
- A Nacro youth project in Southwark, South London involving over 200 young people. Over 80% had committed a criminal offence and nearly a quarter had committed eight or more crimes. One year on, an evaluation of the project revealed a decrease in criminal damage of 39% and a decrease in motor vehicle theft of 62%.
- Five youth work projects developed by Crime Concern, the Groundwork Foundation and Marks and Spencer on estates in Blackburn, Sunderland, Leeds, Plymouth and Hackney. These have resulted in reductions of 30 to 70% in the numbers of youth arrests and cautions; a reduction in vandalism costs in one area of£160,000; in the Sunderland project a reduction of 66% in criminal damage, 42% in car crime and 75% in vandalism.
- A Nacro-run project in Bolton that aimed to resolve conflicts between adults and groups of young people and acted as a consultant to all the city's youth initiatives to ensure that they engaged young people who were at risk of getting into trouble. After one year, there was a drop in youth-related crime of nearly 30% and a marked reduction in calls to the police about nuisance behaviour by young people.
Youth activity projects are not only effective in reducing crime but are also highly cost-effective. An evaluation of five youth work schemes found that to be cost-effective the projects studied needed on average to prevent just one in 10 participants from committing a single crime during one year's involvement in the project.
Helen Edwards, Nacro's Chief Executive said,
'Targeted activity programmes for young people at risk of offending in disadvantaged, high crime areas can make a vital contribution to reducing youth crime. The Government is currently implementing a range of positive measures aimed at young people including a new Youth Support Service making available personal advisers to give guidance, advice and support on learning and career choices.
'Alongside such highly focused developments, we need to increase and extend neighbourhood activity-based work which can engage young people's interests, provide opportunities for positive achievement and divert their energies away from crime. Such an approach will do more to reduce crime than any number of changes in sentencing or penal policy.'
1. Copies of 'Making a difference' are available priced£3 incl p&p from Nacro,
169 Clapham Road, London SW9 0PU Tel: 020 7582 6500 Fax: 020 7735 4666. 'Doing something positive' is also available priced£6.50 incl p&p
2. The 'Why don't you pack' incorporating both reports is available from Nacro priced£9 incl p&p