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Teens live in climate of fear
IT is a disturbing snapshot of the state of youth violence and intimidation on Southampton's streets.
A shocking new report, revealed exclusively in the Daily Echo today, shows how teenagers in the city are living in a climate of fear.
Some are so scared of being attacked both in and out of school they have admitted to carrying weapons including knives and guns to protect themselves.
The results of the survey, commissioned by Southampton police and said to be the first of its kind in the country, will make eye-opening reading for parents.
Carried out by researchers from the University of Portsmouth during anti-bullying week last November, it has seen every pupil aged 14 and 15 - around 1,500 girls and boys - in the city's 14 secondary schools asked to take part.
But the full report can finally be unveiled today - after the Daily Echo demanded its release through a Freedom of Information request to Hampshire police.
The alarming statistics show:
- One in five pupils have admitted carrying a knife, gun or other weapon.
- More than half of those did so for self-defence or protection.
- 20 youths said they carried the knives or guns for the purpose of attacking someone.
- More than one in five pupils don't feel safe outside school.
- One in four claim they are victims of bullying while one in ten are worried about being bullied both inside and outside school.
- Three quarters of the pupils said they had witnessed bullying in school in the past 12 months.
- One in seven are worried they will be physically attacked outside school.
Gang violence in Southampton was also raised in the questionnaires carried out by 76 classes - and more than 75 per cent of children said they were aware of one or several gangs operating in their neighbourhood.
To get accurate results, the pupils were told to define "gang" as something they had been "a member" of for more than three months, that together they felt that doing things against the law was OK, that they did break the law as part of a group, that they spent a lot of time together "on the street" and that they had their own territory in part of the city.
More than half the pupils said that they were aware of at least one gang - most said several - operating within their school.
A total of 55 pupils admitted to being part of a criminal gang - the majority, 41, were boys but a further 14 were girls.
Chief Inspector Andrew Bottomley said: "Knife crime is a real and massive issue for us - not because we are any worse than any other city in the country, but because we have seen the full consequences of knives in a number of high profile murders over the last year.
"These should act as a reminder to everyone of the devastation that carrying a knife can have - not just for the victim and their family - but also to the offender.
"We commissioned this research so that we knew what we were dealing with and so that we could do something meaningful to try and stop young people from carrying or using knives. The results show that Southampton is no worse than anywhere else, however it's worrying that a number of young people have openly admitted to carrying a weapon within Southampton over the last 12 months. Even one person carrying a knife is one too many.
"The data that we now have means that we can work closer with schools and youth services to tackle this problem head on. We now have a true reflection of young people's attitudes and feelings, not just about carrying weapons, but also about whether they feel safe and how big a problem bullying is for them. It's important to understand all of this so that we know why young people feel that they have to carry a weapon for protection.
Just the start' "This is just the start of the work that we are doing to tackle the knife crime culture and we are linking in with national bodies and sharing our research and our experiences so that other areas can do the same.
"Knife crime is a growing trend nationally. It's a community problem which needs long-term solutions. Southampton is keen to lead the way and help make people feel safer, no matter where they are in the city."
Ann Dyton, inclusion manager for Southampton City Council, said: "It's important that we know how young people in our schools feel about their own safety and issues like bullying and carrying weapons.
"We are encouraged that this survey shows the situation in Southampton is no different to elsewhere in the country. However, it is a concern that some of our children don't feel safe.
"Our priority is not only to make sure our children feel safe, but to ensure that they are safe. We now intend to build on the work we already do with young people through schools and youth services to reinforce the message that carrying knives or other weapons is not a good choice."
Click to read the report 'Staying Safe and Out of Trouble'