Youth crime: ‘Root causes need tackling’

THE ‘root causes’ of antisocial behaviour need to be dealt with, a community police officer has said following reports of a gang of young people terrorising St Helier shops.

Liberty Wharf where some of the issues occurred. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30362073)
Liberty Wharf where some of the issues occurred. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30362073)

Community policing team inspector Huw Williams said that the ‘behaviours playing out on the streets’ were symptomatic of deeper issues that the youths had experienced. He added that the police were carrying out increased patrols in town in ‘hot-spot’ areas.

Earlier this week, the States police confirmed that a 14-year-old boy had been arrested on suspicion of grave and criminal assault, while another 14-year-old and a 12-year-old were arrested on suspicion of affray, following reports that the store manager of a SandpiperCI outlet had been assaulted by a group of youths on Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Gary Bryant, of Morganfinch Management Services – which is employed to manage Liberty Wharf – claimed that young people had been vandalising parts of the property and acting aggressively throughout town for several years.

‘There is a plan in place and we definitely care,’ said Insp Williams. ‘We’re really sympathetic to the challenges that retail owners are facing at the moment with a small group of young people causing crime and antisocial behaviour – and we’re taking it very seriously.’

Gary Bryant, property manager at Morganfinch Management Services. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30362069)

Insp Williams said that the police had enhanced their patrols in town after analysing where and what kind of disruption was taking place, while policing in ‘hot-spot’ areas was being led by the community policing team with support from the rest of the force. He added that meetings were also taking place between the police and the Chamber of Commerce to discuss the disruption that store managers were facing.

‘Providing a statement will allow us to investigate and engage our law office departments to see whether or not an issue should go into court,’ he said. ‘However, it’s not just about convicting: we need a multidisciplinary approach that looks at the root cause.’

Insp Williams added that the police were aware of approximately a dozen young individuals who had been exhibiting ongoing anti-social behaviour, but said that many continued to reoffend following convictions.

He explained that when the Law Officers’ Department was considering whether prosecution should take place, they would look at the evidence and also whether it was in the public interest for it to go ahead.

‘The guidance at the moment from the Attorney General clearly states that there is a presumption against prosecuting juveniles here in Jersey,’ said Insp Williams. ‘And the spirit of that is absolutely right in terms of considering alternative approaches and what is in the interest of everyone involved.

‘We are dealing with the symptoms of this, but there are root causes. It is not about being punitive – it is about finding out why this is happening and resolving this so then the symptoms disappear.

‘The behaviours playing out on the streets and in the shops are symptoms of deeper issues that these young people have experienced. We will be engaging with these young people at the earliest opportunity – there has to be a multi-disciplinary approach so we can work with them and fill their calendars with more positive activities.’

St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft added that it was only a tiny minority of youths who had been exhibiting antisocial behaviour and that the vast majority of young Islanders were ‘really good citizens’.

He said: ‘Young people are working hard at school, in difficult circumstances with the pandemic, and it is important to keep in perspective that Jersey’s young people are great ambassadors – without underplaying the nuisance and negative effects that this small group is having in town.

‘Thankfully we have a police force that is up to strength and a lot of new community police officers who have been very active and present. My message to retailers and hospitality premises is do not hesitate to call on the police services and to report any activity that is digressing. We certainly have the tools to challenge this antisocial behaviour.’

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