Reducing offending and reoffending is the cornerstone of making communities safe and crime free. Government research shows that if young people on the periphery of crime are offered guidance and interventions by parents, guardians or other support services at early stages in their life they are less likely to go onto commit crime in adulthood.

Growing up in a loving, supportive home is the ultimate environment for someone to thrive but many children are not afforded this luxury. Where this is lacking, positive role models and interventions by schools, community workers, social services and health services are key to getting children at risk on the right path. As commissioner, my role is to ensure all those key agencies are around the table to help change the life of a young person risk. Hampshire and Isle of Wight’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) was set up specifically for that. The VRU is run out of my office and its purpose is to convene all local services to reduce violence amongst young people. 

I’ve recently commissioned a project called RESET which supports 18-25-year-olds who find themselves in police custody. I visited Basingstoke Police Investigation Centre (PIC) in Jays Close in October to meet the support workers, who are independent from police, but who work out of the police station.

Basingstoke PIC is home to a variety of specialist police teams including CID, Major Crime and the Child Abuse Investigation Team. It also has a front counter for people to report crime and it has a large custody suite. As I made my way into the building past the front counter and down to the custody area I was reminded of the hustle and bustle of a busy police station and I was pleased to see the support workers, from the Society of St James, working alongside custody sergeants with a common goal.

Project RESET is designed to provide a critical opportunity to help young people at risk of being drawn into the criminal justice system or who are already involved and helping them make better choices to turn their life around.

This isn’t a get out of jail free card, this is an opportunity to stop someone from turning to a life of crime and blighting communities.

For many young people who end up in custody it might be too late to make a change, however more often than not, the young person needs to see there is a choice.

A large number of children are often groomed into criminal behaviour through the combination of low self-esteem and a difficult home environment. This makes them the perfect target for County Lines gangs to manipulate them into carrying and dealing drugs for them. County Lines is a term used to describe organised criminal networks who move illegal drugs out of larger cities into smaller towns and cities in the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines.

The offer of friendship, money and status is often too much for a teenager to turn down and before they know it they are essentially working for a criminal gang and committing very serious crimes on their behalf. This leads to knife carrying, violence, and ultimately could end up with prison time, serious injury, or death. This is something the police are constantly battling.

In October, Basingstoke police arrested nine people involved in drug supply and disrupted a number drug networks during the national County Lines Intensification Week. A number of those arrested were 25-years-old or under. One was only 15-years-old.

Whilst I was pleased to see the number of arrests, the age of those involved with the police is a real concern. This is a nationwide issue and the introduction of VRUs are to ensure that everyone around the table is trying to help young people ultimately prevent crime; helping this generation and the next.

As commissioner, preventing youth crime remains one of my top priorities. There’s no overnight remedy, but with project RESET just beginning, and the police’s ongoing efforts to bear down on organised gangs, I am looking forward to seeing the reduction in youth offending in years to come.