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Camden News - by PAUL KEILTHY
Published: 22 January 2009

Police patrols to target young people on streets at night

CHILDREN out on Camden’s streets at night will be targeted by a squad of police and social workers in a trial programme to disrupt gangs and help “victims of poor parenting”.
Specially formed units of officers and child welfare experts will patrol the borough next month looking for under-16s out on their own or with gangs in the first project of its kind in London.
Parents whose children are picked up in the sweeps could be visited by social services.
Police said on Tuesday that the operation, code-named Staysafe, marked a refusal to ignore the plight of young people left vulnerable on the streets or being drawn into gangs.
“We just don’t walk away anymore,” said community policing head Superintendent Raj Kohli. “I’d rather be accused of being heavy-handed than have one of them [a child] being clipped by a car, for example. This is about victims of poor parenting.”
If officers see children drinking alcohol, “running with known robbers”, or just on their own late at night, “we’ll lift them off the streets and take them to social services,” he said.
?But concerns were immediately raised that young people would face an unofficial ­curfew. Youth Council spokesman Ozman Dahab, 18, said: “How can we be sure that these possibly unstable young people will not believe that they are being arrested or detained?”
The £30,000 operation, which begins on February 13, will see 10 police officers join with five council social workers and youth workers.
When details of the plans emerged at a public meeting on Tuesday, the Town Hall’s community safety chief, Tony Brooks, said the operation would be a pilot with an emphasis on child protection.
He said: “Don’t leave here with the view that if you are coming from a youth club at 10 o’clock you will be arrested – it is about an eight-year-old that’s on the streets at 3am.”
Yesterday, however, the Town Hall confirmed that the patrols would be out between 8pm and midnight.
Mr Brooks also admitted that the authorities had not gathered evidence to support the project. “Anecdotally people say there are children out there,” he said. “If you ask could we prove it – no, we couldn’t. If this ­operation finds it isn’t a problem, good.”
The funding for the project comes from a government source dedicated to tackling gangs. Although youth violence is lower in Camden than in neighbouring
boroughs, friction between groups in Camden and Islington has flared up near secondary schools in recent months.

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