Youth project helps reduce antisocial behaviour in Leith by a quarter

Friday Night Lights was launched a year ago after community police officers noticed a rise in criminal activity among youngsters.

A youth project in Leith has helped to reduce anti-social behaviour in the area by a quarter.

Friday Night Lights was launched a year ago after community police officers noticed a rise in criminal activity among youngsters.

The scheme is aimed at young people between the ages of nine and 12 and seeks to prevent them being potentially targeted by illegal gangs after the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland increased to 12 in 2019.

Sessions are held each Friday night to give youngsters an alternative to being out on the streets.

Solomon Turner, 17, was one of the first to join the community project. He moved to Leith from Nigeria around three years ago.

At that time he was fearful of walking the streets alone.

Solomon said: “I heard Leith was a sketchy area, like different people could just walk up to you and punch you or do something harmful towards you and I didn’t want that to happen to me.

“I was a different colour from a different country and a different race, so I didn’t want anything to happen to me.”

Now he’s secured a part time job with the YMCA through the scheme and says he feels like a completely different person.

He added: “The project helped build my confidence and also my communication skills because I have a connection between every young person there.

“If they see me on the street I think ‘this is someone I know from the youth programme’ so I’m able to walk alone in Leith – my confidence has 100% improved.”

During the sessions, young people play different sports and build communication skills while having regular visits from community police officers, who will often get involved with football matches.

Maddison Campbell, 11, said: “On a Friday night it keeps you from going wondering the streets and stuff so it’s really good and it’s fun because you go into teams and it’s like teamwork and stuff like that and about hanging out with the right people.”

Sergeant Chris Casselden, from Leith’s community policing team said: “This level of engagement is really important for us as community police officers because not only can we deter people from antisocial behaviour but we can actually engage on their own level and get to know the young people in their own environment.

Sergeant Chris Casselden.STV News

“And then when we see them out on the street, we can engage in a friendly, sociable way, without necessarily coming across as just another uniform that they have to deal with.”

Adam Szymoszowskyj, community sports hub manager for City of Edinburgh Council said: “The police initially told us when we got together to construct the idea that there was a rise in antisocial behaviour incidents in Leith.

“Forwarding 12 months into the project now, the police are able to show us that in their local beats area in Leith that our project has contributed to a 25% reduction in antisocial behaviour so that’s a massive win for us.”

Now there’s plans to launch similar projects throughout Edinburgh, with a second initiated in Craigmillar this month to continue making communities safer.

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