Communities the key to preventing youth crime
The shadow home secretary has called on politicians and the public alike to "challenge the misconceptions" about young people's involvement in the riots that took place across English cities this summer.
Yvette Cooper spoke passionately about the importance of not viewing all of August's civil disturbances as being caused by under 18s.
Cooper told a fringe event at the Labour party conference that a large number of the rioters were not young people at all.
Cooper said: "It looks as though a number of the rioters had previous criminal convictions and were between 18-25, or indeed older."
"We must challenge the misconceptions about young people's involvement in crime and promote methods in which we can combat youth offences when they do happen", she continued.
Cooper also outlined ways in which criminal activity, where it does occur, could be tackled.
Methods suggested by the shadow home secretary included more employment opportunities and community-led initiatives.
"We should never underestimate the importance of employment", Cooper said.
"Many of those involved in this summer's riots were aged over 18 and should have been in employment. The fact that many were not is a huge concern."
"There is also an important place for communities supporting their local populace, after all who knows better how to occupy and protect their young people than the local community itself."
Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, also spoke at the fringe.
Vaz highlighted the work of the committee's ongoing inquiry into the summer's public disorder and noted that an integral part of the government's response should be prevention.
The Leicester East MP said: "If you don't deal with the causes and seek to prevent crime, then further down the line you will have to deal with the consequences."
"Policies based around dealing with consequences, rather than prevention, are far from ideal."
Also speaking at the 'Capable of greatness' meeting, were representatives from the event's hosts and sponsors, Nacro and the NASUWT.
They addressed their involvement in the Philip Lawrence Awards, named for the West London head teacher murdered in 1995.
And both the crime reduction charity and teaching union called for less vilification of young people and greater understanding of the causes of youth crime.
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