Young people in Norfolk
have more faith in their friends and family than in the police, according to a project to discover youngsters' perceptions of the force.
A study of more than 250 young people by YMCA Norfolk
revealed youngsters did not trust the police, felt officers did not take them seriously, pre-judged them and felt victimised by them.
The countywide study, which the police asked the charity to conduct, involved boys and girls aged between 11 and 19 living in Norwich, Yarmouth, Thetford
and rural areas.
Police plan to use the findings to develop a fresh approach to policing young people by treating them with respect rather than dismissing them as yobs and hoodies.
The YMCA says more needs to be done to encourage young victims to come forward, and officers should be encouraged to mix with kids instead of just dealing with them when trouble arises.
More than 50pc of youngsters quizzed said that they had felt victimised after being dealt with by the police, either because they did not understand the conversation, because they had been falsely accused or because officers broke promises of anonymity. These feelings were particularly common in deprived areas.
One of the key findings was that there should be more officers on the beat and an effort should be made to actively engage with youngsters.Stephen Bett,
chairman of Norfolk Police Authority, said: “We have to understand that young people are generally good - I'm sure we all made mistakes when we were young and it is important that we don't judge youngsters for understandable misdemeanours.
“There is a big difference between a young person who makes a mistake and gets in trouble and somebody who is persistently committing crime.
“We can use methods like fixed penalty notices and restorative justice to deal with problems without criminalising the individual involved.
“We also need to recognise that the vast majority of youngsters make a positive contribution and they should not be tarred with the same brush as the minority of persistent troublemakers who should continue to be dealt with robustly.”
The report came as an influential report by ex-Youth Justice Board chairman Prof Rod Morgan
said the government was too quick to criminalise young people for petty offences where informal punishment could be more effective.
Mr Morgan said: “There is a good deal of anecdotal evidence, for example, that behaviour, particularly that of children and young people, is being criminalised which arguably would be better dealt with informally (school-related misbehaviour for example) and in previous times was.”
However, added the increased use of pre-court summary justice - such as on-the-spot fines and restorative methods - did not guarantee justice is meted out “fairly and effectively”.