Ministers identify 47 worst 'hot spots' for crime

Crime offensive: New effort to crack down on the persistent criminals creating misery in the most blighted neighbourhoods

The most crime-ridden areas in England and Wales have been identified by the Government in a major programme to tackle the next generation of young offenders.

The most crime-ridden areas in England and Wales have been identified by the Government in a major programme to tackle the next generation of young offenders.

In each of the 47 crime hot spots - which range from crumbling inner-city areas to sprawling edge-of-town council estates - the 50 worst offenders will be identified and targeted. The hot spots will be formally named today.

The Government intends to cut the arrest rates of the targeted youths by 60 per cent in two years and to drive down the overall crime rates in the hot spots by 30 per cent in the same period. The £13m initiative was outlined to the The Independent last night by Charles Pollard, the Chief Constable of Thames Valley and a member of the Government's Youth Justice Board.

Mr Pollard said a small number of young serial offenders were creating "cultures of fear and helplessness" in the country's most crime-hit areas and that research had shown there was a need to tackle the 3 per cent of offenders who were typically responsible for 25 per cent of overall crime.

He added: "They create an atmosphere on an estate, which arouses fear in people living there and encourages other youngsters to get involved in criminality through peer pressure."

The scheme is being jointly funded by the Home Office, the Youth Justice Board, the Department for Employment, Transport and the Regions and the Department for Education and Employment.

Officials in the 47 most run-down local authorities in the country, as identified by the DFEE's Index of Deprivation, were asked to nominate a specific neighbourhood or estate plagued by crime.

Teachers, police officers and car workers will pool information on local youngsters with previous convictions, records of truancy or school exclusion.

They will then draw up a list of the 50 youngsters aged 13-16 who represent the greatest risk of criminal activity in the neighbourhood.

The initiative - known as the Youth Inclusion Programme - has a further aim of reducing by a third the levels of truancy and school exclusion in the hot-spot neighbourhoods during the next two years.

Youngsters at risk will be offered treatment for drug and alcohol misuse and classes in literacy and numeracy. They will also be offered after-school activities and vocational training.

YIPs have been piloted in 10 areas around the country since last September and early indications show that a comprehensive approach to youth offending is helping to divert youngsters from crime.

It is hoped that local people will volunteer to help with the activities programmes so that they will continue after the end of the scheme in 2002.

Mr Pollard said: "I am sure that people will have no objections to their neighbourhoods being labelled as high-crime areas. They want their estates to be nicer and safer places to live and this programme will help to achieve that."

Louise Bennett, the Board's senior policy adviser on the Youth Inclusion Programme, said: "Nearly all the communities have welcomed the scheme. Residents see it as a good way to reduce the nuisance behaviour on their estates."

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