Detective Superintendent John Cuddihy leads Strathclyde Police's Major Crime and Counter-Terrorism Investigation Unit His job is to tackle "Level-3 criminals" – gangsters.
However, he believes diversionary and other work being carried out by the third sector is playing a key role in cutting the supply of young recruits to crime gangs.
Mr Cuddihy said: "The voluntary sector plays a fantastic and extremely important part here.
"When you see these potential footsoldiers at 14 and 15, we have to take them out of that environment where they will be seduced by serious organised crime.
"Action for Children, for example, is doing great work just now, working with the 14 and 15-year-olds who would be most vulnerable and diverting them into other activities."
Organised criminals across the west of Scotland have traditionally recruited enforcers who have been hardened and brutalised by street gangfighting.
However, Glasgow, as Herald Society reported this week, has seen a marked decline in violent offending by young people. The number of under-16s, for example, caught with a knife has dropped by 75% in Strathclyde in the last six years.
Mr Cuddihy added: "We are tackling serious and organised crime at the higher echelons. Community police are having an absolute impact in their communities.
"Other partners are helping us with community intelligence.
"But the voluntary sector is having an impact too by diverting kids away and giving them a focus and a purpose in life, a sense that they can contribute to society.
"That means they are not getting involved in other chaotic stuff, in setting a fire or hanging about the street corner. Ultimately it will bring a feel-good factor in the community.
"Kids want to contribute to society. We can give them an alternative."
Paul Carberry, director of service development at Action for Children, said: "We're working hard to develop innovative ways to divert vulnerable young people from organised criminal gangs.
"We provide alternatives to what is wrongly perceived as a glamorous and profitable lifestyle – from our employability services, which provide a route into employment, to a new programme for the Strathclyde area which intervenes early to help young people transform their lives."
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