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14 Mar 2007 : Column 139WH—continued

Despite those complexities, however, we have focused our response on crimes that we know young people commit and on the settings in which they happen. We know that robbery is a particular concern for young people. We have therefore introduced significantly more powerful interventions to tackle mobile phone robbery, through the mobile phone crime reduction charter, which
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includes challenging targets for the industry on the blocking of stolen phones, which we think will have a significant impact on such crime. We will follow that up with a public information campaign to reinforce the strong message that stolen phones do not work.

The charter also supports the safer schools partnership and the “Out of your hands” educational programme, which are aimed at providing young people with information and advice to help prevent them from becoming victims of robbery. Of all robberies against young people of school age, 67 per cent. happen during the day. We are working with local partners to improve supervision on school buses, enable third party reporting in schools and youth leisure sites, and promote better use of CCTV for detection.

Crucially, we are also supporting local action. For example, in February an innovative pilot project was launched for school pastors to operate at St. Joseph’s academy school in Lewisham. We need to do more of that sort of work. The pastors will provide a visible presence at peak times in and around schools, and on transport links, to deter robbery. They will also counsel potential offenders to attempt to prevent them from getting involved in criminal activity.

Justine Greening: Do those pastors have any powers that they can exercise?

Mr. Coaker: They do not have any particular powers. However, I recently went to Peckham and met people from the Ascension trust, which organises the street pastors. It was quite astonishing to talk to people whose only power was the power of faith. That was their motivation. They would go out on the street on a Friday and Saturday night—I hope to go with them in a few weeks’ time—and just by being around and talking to people, including some of the difficult young people, they were having a dramatic impact on crime. If I remember rightly, three quarters of the trained street pastors were women. I found it quite remarkable that the project was having that impact.

Leaving aside some of the other remarks that I was to make, I close by saying that, as with drugs or any other issue, we must not get into an either/or situation. Is the answer tough policing? Of course it is. Is there an issue about the police being around on the streets? Of course there is. Is the answer about ensuring that those who offend are caught and that there is a consequence? Of course it is. Is the answer also about trying to understand some of the problems in our communities without damning everyone? Of course it is. Is the answer about trying to reclaim streets so that people such as the street pastors can walk around? Of course it is.

I do not want to demonise all young people, but there is a particular problem with some people. Dealing with them will involve the police, the community and the local authorities, and doing all that we can to replace some of the social glue that has gone missing. If we do that, we can offer hope and optimism for the future in all communities throughout the country.

It being Five o’clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the sitting lapsed, without Question put.

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