26th March 2019
It is always a bother when new initiatives and their new acronyms are trotted out by Police and in particular when that involves the politicians. Recently announced is the deployment of Youth Specialist Officers (YSOs). For many years the highly successful Youth Resource Officers (YROs) have been focused on proactive work with youth, therefore, we can assume that YSOs have a different role and are a reactive group focused on Youth. Otherwise, it would seem logical to strengthen and boost an initiative that works.
This demonstrates that the Police Command just do not get it, after all the prompting – prevention is the priority, not detection. Don’t wait for kids to offend before you take action to guide them away from offending. That’s not how you reduce the crime rate. Kids not committing the crime in the first place is the go.
Bolster the YROs rather than creating another branch or classification. Cynics within VicPol see this as a move to phase out and access the YRO personnel for wider general duties rather than their focused function.
Inevitably YSOs will not be working with young people, they will be manning the Div Van preparing briefs and attending courts. In other words, performing general duties with a role tag and minimal youth work. General Duties Police will have yet another function to which they can defer work too. Anything to do with youth will be hived off to the YSOs.
It will be interesting to see if this new initiative actually translates into extra police for the staff strapped stations or will already overworked Police be given a new title and more training and this be no more than smoke and mirrors with a smattering of new positions but blanket introduction of the scheme.
We know that it takes very strong and enlightened management to achieve an effective reactive proactive balance in Policing, a skill that it seems that consecutive police executive groups in recent years are devoid of. The application on the ground of YSOs appears not to be thought through.
The statistics proudly provided to suggest that VicPol is wonderful are also telling. Arresting and charging hordes of kids does little to tell us whether policing is effective and we should never forget for every one of those crimes there is a victim.
A far more meaningful statistic would be the number of young first offenders in a particular Police area relative to the given population compared to other policing areas. Very quickly, the relative efficiencies of policing a given area would be identified and the strategies employed by the most successful police area can be applied more widely.
There are two very basic aspects of the prevention of crime. Create an environment where people do not want to commit crime because of their personal values or they do not commit crime because they might get caught.
The cases where a criminal wanted to be caught are very rare so whether it is Tony Mokbel or a twelve-year-old shop thief they both have common drivers when committing the crime. They, for that time at least, lack the moral values not to offend and they believe they will not get caught. The development of these values is central to Police youth interaction.
A positive strengthening of these two drivers is how police effectively reduce crime. One is achieved by proactive work and the other reactive – success will come when the balance is right.