Tackling anti-social behaviour is most effective when agencies work in partnership
Home Office Press Release
23 February 2009
120 children were safely returned to their homes after being found unsupervised on the streets late on Friday night as part of a wide-ranging police operation.
Police and Children’s Services in 27 areas of England ran Operation Staysafe patrols over the weekend weekend. The operation was part of a coordinated effort to protect vulnerable children and to reassure the public that they are dealing with issues of local concern.
It identified young people who were out late at night, and who were at risk of becoming victims of crime, or of being drawn into criminal behaviour, and took them to a place of safety. They were then returned to their parents, carers or guardians.
Follow-up actions may now be put in place by the authorities to stop problem behaviour from recurring.
On Friday night more than 1000 young people were engaged with, of those 120 children were returned to their homes, and 103 referrals were made to other services including Family Support Teams, Parenting Programmes and Alcohol Awareness Projects.
The Home Secretary's statement
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said,
'Most parents would be horrified to receive a knock on the door from police returning their child to them. But there are too many who think it is acceptable to allow their child to stay out late where they may be vulnerable to becoming victims of crime or committing crime.
'Operation Staysafe protects at-risk children and provides a reassuring police presence on the streets. This weekend’s activity highlights the important work that police and children’s services are doing week in week out to help keep children safe and to intervene to address root causes before they have time to develop into more serious problems.
'I want to send the clear message to parents that not knowing where your child is at night, or allowing them to stay out late on their own, is unacceptable, and I want to reassure communities that we are working to keep children safe from harm and tackle youth crime and disorder head on.'
Background of Operation Staysafe
Operation Staysafe is a key part of the £100m cross-government Youth Crime Action Plan launched in July 2008. (download below)
It originated in Merseyside as part of Merseyside Police’s approach to tackling and preventing youth crime in the city.
Between May 2007 and September 2008 in Merseyside:
- 614 young people were removed to a place of safety
- 614 parents or guardians were engaged with
- 45 referrals were made to family or parenting interventions
In November and December 2008, 11 local areas included Operation Stay Safe as part of the early roll out of the Youth Crime Action Plan.
- 107 Staysafe operations took place
- 244 young people were removed to a place of safety
- 54 referrals were made to family or parenting interventions
Children's Secretary's statement
Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said.
'Operation Staysafe helps children, young people and their parents understand the risks of children and young people being out unsupervised at night. This weekend, the police and children’s services were there to protect the children found wandering the streets, but that won't always be the case.
'Parents need to think carefully about their responsibilities towards their children and how they can avoid their child becoming a victim of crime or being involved in anti-social behaviour. Working together, local communities and the services that support them can ensure that all our children lead safe and successful lives.'
Justice Secretary's statement
Justice Secretary Jack Straw said,
'For those who persistently commit crime or cause fear on our streets we need to ensure that we have tough penalties and punishments. However our primary aim must be to prevent children and young people from situations where they are likely to commit a crime or become a victim of crime.
'As we have seen this weekend Operation Staysafe patrols are an effective way of protecting vulnerable children and local communities and of reminding parents of their responsibilities.'
Association of Chief Police Officers' statement
Deputy Chief Constable Merseyside Police and ACPO lead for youth crime, Bernard Lawson, said
'It is pleasing to see so many police forces and support services participated in Operation Staysafe this weekend. Young people are often given a bad reputation - but the reality is that just 5% are responsible for the crime that tarnishes the reputation of the rest.
'Despite the fact that many young people have never offended, youth crime and anti-social behaviour are major sources of public concern to neighbourhoods.
'Importantly, Operation Staysafe allows the early intervention by police and support services with young people to prevent those youths becoming involved in criminal activity or becoming victims of crime themselves. It can help to identify reasons for the young person being on the street late at night and intervene where necessary to protect our most vulnerable.'
Notes to editors
The 27 areas that are taking part in Operation Staysafe weekend are Bournemouth, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Camden, Croydon, Darlington, Halton, Hartlepool, Kingston upon Hull, Knowsley, Lancashire, Leeds, Liverpool North Lincolnshire, Peterborough, Plymouth, Rotherham, Sandwell, Slough, Southampton, South Tyneside, Southend, St. Helens, Tameside, Torbay and Wigan. 26 of the 27 areas (except Bradford) ran operations on Friday night.
The number of children safely returned to their homes was supplied by 22 of the 26 Staysafe areas from their operational records for 20 February 2009. Bournemouth, Camden, Darlington and Plymouth have yet to provide information.
Numbers from the operation
Young people engaged by the police:
- East - 135
- Yorkshire and Humberside - 184
- Northeast - 127
- London and the Southeast - 117
- Southwest - 37
- Northwest - 553
- West Midlands - 98
- Total: 1251
Young people taken to the place of safety:
- East - 2
- Yorkshire and Humberside - 14
- Northeast - 16
- London and the Southeast - 7
- Southwest - 17
- Northwest - 64
- West Midlands - 0
- Total: 120
Number of parents engaged:
- East -22
- Yorkshire and Humberside - 33
- Northeast - 14
- London and the Southeast - 10
- Southwest - 3
- Northwest - 76
- West Midlands - 0
- Total: 138
Number referred to other services:
- East - 15
- Yorkshire and Humberside - 24
- Northeast - 16
- London and the Southeast - 8
- Southwest - 2
- Northwest - 36
- West Midlands - 0
- Total: 103
Note: Young people engaged by police means that a young person was spoken to or stop checked but was not deemed at significant risk of harm and therefore was not removed to the place of safety.
The types of behaviour that led to young people being taken to the place of safety include:
- possession of alcohol or heavily intoxicated
- drug use
- being out late at night with nowhere to stay for the night
- large group behaving anti-socially
- out far too late without an adult
Case study from Friday's operation
In one area in the North West a total of seven young people were removed to the place of safety. This included:
- Two females aged 16 and 17 found under railway arches intoxicated and vulnerable. They had been approached by males who it was later discovered had offered them drugs.
- One female aged 17 who had consumed half a bottle of vodka.
- Two females aged 14 and 15 in an inebriated state.
- Two females aged 16 found drunk and in the company of a 19 year old male.
All seven were offered voluntary referral to council drugs and alcohol services and were checked on the police and Social Services databases. Parents (including one foster carer) of all seven came to the place of safety to pick them up and were interviewed both privately and with their children by Social Services staff.
Information as given to all seven about available positive activities, and referrals were made automatically to the Youth Offending Service. Although all actions taken will be recorded on the Children’s Social Services system, one young person was of particular concern and her family will be subject to more intensive work after Social Services have discussed the case on Monday morning.
More notes about the operation
Merseyside Police supplied operational information on removals, engagement and interventions in their areas for the period July to September 2008. The 11 local delivery areas who participated in November and December 2008 were Torbay, Peterborough, Lancashire Liverpool, South Tyneside, Croydon, St Helens, Kingston-upon Hull, Knowsley, Brighton and Hove and Plymouth and they supplied operational information from their areas to form aggregate totals for this period.
Operation Stay Safe is part of the intensive package of measures being delivered through the Youth Crime Action Plan in 69 priority areas across the country. From April 2009 all 69 Youth Crime Action Plan priority areas will be delivering Operation Stay Safe.
This project is based on the successful schemes in Liverpool and Preston. You can watch a video of Operation Staysafe on the Home Office Youtube channel (new window).
Children and young people on the streets unsupervised late at night can be a risk to themselves and to others and the public is understandably concerned about the issues.
Staysafe teams will deal promptly and robustly with these groups by getting them off the streets and taking them to a 'place of safety', where the young person is assessed by local services and their parents are then contacted.
The approach provides the opportunity to identify any underlying reasons why the young person is out late at night before these issues escalate into more serious criminal behaviour, or result in serious harm being caused to the young person.
The Youth Crime Action Plan (download below) was published in July 2008 and backed by £100 million, the plan sets out a comprehensive strategy to tackle youth crime through early intervention, prevention, non-negotiable support and tough enforcement. It recognises that most young people are on the right track and that it is a small group of frequent offenders who are responsible for the majority of youth crime.
Case studies from previous operations
Case Study 1 - South Tyneside
Natalie (not her real name), female 16 yrs, South Tyneside, February 2009
Natalie lives with her younger brother (14); mother and stepfather. She was picked up by a Staysafe operation at a bus stop. She was found carrying a bottle of vodka.
At the place of safety she was interviewed by the social workers. They picked up that family relationships were clearly a cause for significant concern. Natalie’s mother and stepfather were in the process of splitting up. She was very upset, revealing that her stepfather was abusive and sometimes threatened her and her mother with violence. Natalie said she has real problems managing her anger and that she punches holes in the doors and shouts, screams and cries with anger and frustration.
Her mother refused to collect her from the place of safety and her stepfather came instead. Although he presented as concerned and caring, there were clear tensions between him and Natalie.
Following Operation Staysafe Natalie was referred onwards to the Core Assessment Framework process (a full risk assessment). As a result of this:
- Natalie was referred to the local Youth Inclusion and Support Panel for further individual support
- Her family was referred to Family Group Conferencing which will help the family examine Natalie’s underlying issues and work to resolve them.
Case Study 2 - Liverpool
A young male and female (both aged 15) were found engaging in sexual activity in some bushes and both were brought to the place of safety.
Personal details and parents contact number were taken and databases checked for previous contact with authorities. The young man was outside the immediate area but attended a residential school in Liverpool. Staff from Staysafe took the young man to his home address, but while they were speaking to his father a violent incident occurred.
Police support was called and the young man was arrested and charged with breach of the peace.
Staff from Staysafe escorted the young man to the police station and acted as appropriate adult. The father refused to have the young man return to his care and concerns were raised by Staysafe staff about the level of violence between father and son.
The young woman's mother was contacted and staff at Staysafe took her home in order to discuss with her mother the concerns they had regarding her daughter’s behaviour. Her mum informed staff that for the past 6 months her daughter’s behaviour had deteriorated considerably. Her daughter's failure to attend school had resulted in two fines. She said she was struggling with her daughter’s behaviour and discussions took place around appropriate packages of support.
It was agreed that the young man be returned to the residential school until a full assessment was carried out in the other borough. Managers from the Staysafe project followed the referral through and worked in partnership with colleagues from the neighbouring borough.
The young man eventually returned to the care of his father for weekends and school holidays and further support given to both.
For the girl, a referral was generated to Liverpool Out of Hours Service, and an assessment visit was conducted which resulted in this case being allocated to a Social Worker and a support package around "Keeping Safe" was put in place.
Case Study 3 - Liverpool
A young man (15yrs) was picked up by the police for drinking alcohol in the street with a gang of young men and was brought to the place of safety.
He said that he had drunk a full bottle of vodka and that he drank most weekends when out with friends. Staff discussed issues around alcohol with him and the potential danger he could be placing himself in.
He was then taken home by Children’s Services and the police, and the situation was discussed with his mother, who was quite upset and said that she did not realise he had been drinking. It was explained to his mum that referrals would be made to various agencies and that there were concerns about the level of his drinking.
It turned out that he was known to the Youth Offending Service. Their system showed up some low level offending behaviour and he did have a named youth worker. As a result of Staysafe his youth worker was able to fast track him into a targeted piece of work around alcohol.
Case Study 4 – St Helens
Four young girls aged 14-15 were found by the Neighbourhood Police team hanging around St Helens town centre wearing pyjamas and a top coat on one of the coldest nights of the year.
The girls were in the company of older boys. The parents of the girls, when contacted, thought that the girls were attending a 'sleep over'.
Case Study 5 – Preston
On a recent Staysafe operation in Preston, two boys aged 10 and 11 were found riding in the middle of the road on bikes without lights just after 9pm, one smoking a cigarette, both without coats on. The boys were taken back to the safe place, parents were contacted and the boys both returned home.
One of the boys was already known to the Social Services, there was also a drug issue with his father but was on a drug treatment course. The parents were contacted and assessed before the young boy was allowed to go home.
The other boy was not known to the Social Services. his parents were contacted. They came to collect their son and went back home. Both boys were given advice on positive activities that they could get involved in instead of being out on the streets and local social services maintained contact with the families.
ARTICLE LAST UPDATED: 24/02/2009