By Stian Alexander
CHILDREN must be targeted before birth to stop them being lost to a life of crime, a police chief claimed yesterday.
Dumfries and Galloway chief constable Patrick Shearer fears police are not acting soon enough to stop children falling into a pattern of crime and substance abuse on Scotland’s poverty-stricken schemes.
And he has urged early interventions in their lives to give them the chance for a stable future.
Shearer, who is president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, spoke out to the service magazine Police Review.
In the wake of the fly-on-the-wall show The Scheme – which exposed grim lives on the Onthank estate in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire – he said kids must be targeted “almost at the pre-birth stage” to stop the cycle of deprivation continuing.
He said this was the only alternative to “pouring resources” into dealing with the consequences of crime.
The chief explained Scotland needed to “change its approach to policing”, adding: “It is about sharing information and coming up with positive interventions for youngsters, sometimes almost at pre-birth stage.
“We know the families that cause us difficulties and we can identify when children are born that they are going to require an awful lot more support.
“The public will be a lot happier if you are preventing crime rather than pouring resources into detecting, where the costs are much, much greater and the victims are having to suffer the consequences of crime.
“It is much better if we can get out there and prevent it in the first place.”
Shearer said the Scottish police service needed to work with schools and health professionals to target potential offenders, adding: “There is no doubt in my mind early intervention must be the cornerstone of delivering better outcomes for people’s lives.”
One officer, who has worked in Edinburgh for the past 10 years, said: “We all watched The Scheme on the BBC and this is exactly what the chief is talking about.
“You see kids growing up and you know from the moment they are born that they are very likely to be someone you will be arresting in the future.”
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “Safer communities are our bottom line. And if we are going to deliver those outcomes in the context of shrinking budgets, we cannot afford to carry on as before.
“It is time for fresh thinking and new approaches.”