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Prison visits show future of crime

In Nottinghamshire, where 45 per cent of detected robberies last year were committed by young people under the age of 17, tackling youth crime is a top priority.

Under the county's Operation Respect programme, young offenders come face to face with their possible future - by meeting convicted criminals in prison.

"It's not a very nice experience," said juvenile liaison officer PC Glyn Moulton. "The inmate - usually a lifer - will tell them about the drugs and bullying in prison and how he ended up there. Then they can ask him questions on a one-to-one basis."

As a tactic it is controversial, but as a deterrent, it has a powerful effect, PC Moulton says. "The idea is to try to stop them in their tracks. It's early days, but we are hoping to get some positive results. So far more haven't reoffended than have."

Under a parallel scheme due to begin soon, juveniles guilty of violent crime will accompany ambulance crews to see the effects of violence.

Nottinghamshire police have also built up a juvenile database, which can be used to monitor types of crime, where and when offences are committed, which school the offender attends, and their truancy record.

"It helps us to anticipate crime and to connect crimes with certain individuals. If we know they use certain implements or ways of getting into buildings, we can pinpoint patterns of crime," said PC Moulton.

The police have invested Pounds 650,000 in a schools education programme which examines the roots of crime in peer pressure and poor self-esteem and have launched a major anti-shoplifting drive. The guiding principle of their approach - which has attracted interest from other forces - is collaboration with education, probation and social services, and the voluntary sector.

"We cannot tackle crime alone," admits the county's assistant chief constable, Tom Williamson. "We have begun to address the complex problems by working together with other agencies."

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