Over the past six years, the number of children under 16 caught carrying a knife in Strathclyde has fallen by an extraordinary 75%.
In Glasgow, assaults involving a knife have fallen by one-third since 2006 and there has been a 41% drop in the number of people of all ages found with a knife.
These figures, established from an examination of the crime reports for every police beat in Glasgow by our sister title, the Evening Times, suggest a co-ordinated focus by the police, education and community work on young people in areas of deprivation and an increased police presence in areas where more assaults take place. This includes the city centre, where the level of the most serious violent crimes has halved.
This success is so marked some senior crime analysts suggest Glasgow could be close to the tipping point at which the culture of violence which has blighted the city for generations changes for the better.
Complacency on such issues is dangerous. We have seen dramatic falls in knife crime before as a result of police stop-and-search operations and high-profile knife amnesties. Too often the improvement has been temporary.
This time, the extent of the change in behaviour of young people is particularly encouraging. After an initial rise as a result of police activity, knife crime has remained at the reduced level and knife carrying continues to fall. This can be attributed to several factors. Diversionary activities, such as football, organised by the police for young people, have channelled youthful aggression into positive outlets. In addition, it seems likely that the improvement in housing stock and community facilities in the most run-down areas of the city is contributing to a new attitude. It is probably more significant, however, that today's younger teenagers are the first to have benefited from Glasgow City Council's programme of nurture classes for the youngest pupils in primary schools in areas of multiple deprivation.
Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, who heads the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), warns that police intervention is only the first step while education, youth work and employment are all essential if the decrease in violent crime is to continue. Common sense, as well as years of evidence from youth work, indicate he is right. Despite the decrease, crime rates in Glasgow remain higher than the Scottish average, so it is vital that, despite the squeeze on public spending, money is found to ensure successful programmes such as youth work and nurture classes continue. It will save the cost of future hospital treatment and jail terms.
With the appointment of Strathclyde Chief Constable Stephen House to head the new Police Service of Scotland, and with the VRU already operating across the country, there is an opportunity to transfer a successful model of collaboration to other cities and towns where the problem may be on a smaller scale but no less serious. It should be grasped.
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