Tories tout Canadian 'safe houses’ for young victims of crime in London
Published by Brian Church for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities
'Crime mapping' goes online across England and Wales
Conservatives on the London Assembly are calling for 'safe houses’ to help children who have been attacked and they think Canada has the answer.
There were 22,236 reported cases of youth violence in London between April 2011 and March 2013. 11-14 year olds were victims in over a third (8,213) of these crimes.
A new report by the Conservatives, called 'Home Safe Home’, proposes setting up a pilot of Canadian-style safe houses in five small communities across the capital. Under the scheme, local people, who have been security checked and interviewed, could open up their homes to children and older people if they are in trouble.
Author of the report, GLA Conservative Assembly Member Andrew Boff, said: “Far too many of our children are victims of senseless violence. Not only do safe houses offer a safe place if you are bullied, mugged, followed or attacked, but the prominent signs and placards would act as a deterrent to gangs, muggers and child abusers, who would think twice before committing a crime.”
Known as 'block parents’, volunteers would sign up to the scheme at their local police station and go through enhanced security checks. If successful, they would be interviewed at home by the programme, before being given adhesive window signs and placards, with serial numbers and watermarks, so they cannot be replicated or stolen. To ensure safety, local volunteer coordinators would input vital details such as names, addresses, and serial numbers into an online database.
Canada has an estimated 25,000-30,000 safe houses. It costs about $1,500 (approximately £820) to recruit 10 block parents in a community with 25,000 residents and three primary schools.
Linda Patterson, national president of the Block Parent Program of Canada, said: "Safe houses have been a main stay in Canadian communities for over 45 years. They are a safety net for our children as well as elders. It gives local residents the chance to give something back to their community without even having to leave their house. This programme works best in small communities. My advice is to start in small pockets of London, and gradually grow it, ultimately having individual projects running side by side in different neighbourhoods."
The report also calls for a pilot of 'citizen patrols' to work in partnership with safe houses and local police. Approved and monitored by the police, local volunteers would gather information and intelligence on low level crime such as anti-social behaviour. The report says that citizen patrols would not replace local policing, but rather act as the eyes and ears of the local community, help deter crime, and allow the police to focus on preventing and investigating crimes.
The full report, 'Home Safe Home: Safer neighbourhoods through Safe Houses and Citizen Patrols' can be seen at www.glaconservatives.co.uk/hsh