Prime Minister gives his view

PUBLISHED: 12:40 17 August 2006 | UPDATED: 09:42 24 May 2010

THE July 14 copy of the Mercury detailed problems with youth crime in Weston. As I am sure you will understand, no Prime Minister could comment on individual incidents, particularly when they might be subject to court proceedings. But I wanted to assure y

THE July 14 copy of the Mercury detailed problems with youth crime in Weston. As I am sure you will understand, no Prime Minister could comment on individual incidents, particularly when they might be subject to court proceedings. But I wanted to assure your readers that the Government takes the problems of youth crime and disorder very seriously indeed.It is why, over the last nine years, we have given the police, courts and local authorities a whole raft of new powers to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. These include ASBOs to curb hooliganism, dispersal orders to tackle gangs of yobs, parenting orders to ensure parents control their kids, easier evictions to tackle those families at the heart of so much trouble and fixed penalty fines.In all, over 7,000 ASBOs, 13,000 acceptable behaviour contracts and 800 dispersal orders have been issued across the country. All of these powers - backed by tough sanctions - have been put in place after discussions with those on the front-line and communities hardest hit by crime and antisocial behaviour. It is because of these discussions that we announced in the Respect Action Plan published earlier this year that we intend to extend and expand them.What makes these powers effective is that they are targeted on the individuals causing the problems and the communities which suffer. Dispersal orders, for example, give the authorities the powers to stop people causing trouble from gathering in particular areas - in parks, or shopping parades for instance. Because they are used to counter patterns of behaviour rather than one particular incident, collecting the evidence for them is much easier. We have also invested to provide a record number of police and thousands of Community Support Officers (CSOs) to back them. In Avon and Somerset, there are over 300 more police officers and 140 CSOs than in 1997. The creation of Safer Neighbourhood policing teams in every community in the country by 2008 will also help increase the uniformed presence on the streets and give the community a bigger say in local policing priorities.Providing these resources and the powers and the encouragement to use them is the role of Government. But with the best will in the world, no Government or Prime Minister can police every neighbourhood or every street night after night. It is up to the local police, councils, the courts and communities together to use all the powers we have given them. Where they have been used fully and effectively, they have transformed the quality of life of local people.We are also giving a much greater emphasis to support for parents through Children Centres and parenting courses and providing more facilities and activities for youngsters. We also don't want to fall into the trap of suggesting all young people cause trouble. On the contrary, the vast majority of our young people are a credit to themselves and their families.TONY BLAIR - PRIME MINISTER10 Downing Street, London

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