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Met praised for crime reduction work in top knife crime hot-spot

Met officers have been praised for their work in diverting teenagers away from gangs in one of the capital’s most violent areas.

A report into Croydon Youth Offending Service (YOS) revealed police officers are making an impact in diverting teenagers away from gangs and reducing knife violence.

The work is critical as the assessment by HM Inspectorate of Probation was that the service requires improvement.

The report found failings in leadership and partnerships, particularly with social services, in an area that has the highest rate of knife crime in the capital.

It warned Croydon’s children’s social care department needs to provide better support to the borough’s partnership that works with troubled children and young people.

But the inspection team highlighted excellent examples of work by officers.

They concluded the partnership with the police “supports the management and reduction of serious youth violence and knife crime” and also praised timely sharing of information.

The report makes for grim reading about the prospects for children in the borough.

Croydon Youth Offending Service (YOS) is the largest service in London with 544 children and young people in the borough cautioned or sentenced in 2018 – over 10% of the total for London.

Croydon is a complex, diverse and busy London borough. It has the largest population in London of children aged 10–17 years old (39,334), with 54% from minority ethnic groups.

Approximately a fifth of children come from low-income families.

There are high levels of vulnerability for adolescents, including child exploitation, domestic abuse and those who go missing from home, care and education.

The reoffending rate is 48.6% against a national average of 39.2%.

The report said: “These risks are not easily managed by traditional child protection systems.”

Inspectors were clear that the police’s response has made a significant difference: “There is a well-established response to the issues of gangs and serious youth violence. Joint YOS-police strategies are having a positive impact. Rates of knife crime and serious youth violence are decreasing.”

It added: “The work of the gangs partnership is having good results, helping to divert those at risk of gang involvement from such activities.”

A new board has been put in place at the service and work has already begun to improve the work with troubled young people.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “Croydon is the largest youth offending service in London with many challenges to deal with. At the time of the inspection, the YOS supervised more than 200 children in custody or in the community.”

But he added: “At its best, joint work provides children with an effective safety net, with professionals taking timely actions to mitigate the identified risks to children. In other cases, we found that inadequate practice in the children’s social care department left the YOS in a difficult position in trying to keep children and the public safe, with the YOS having to manage these risk by themselves.”

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