RISING youth employment could pave the way for more young people to join gangs, a police chief has warned.
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, noted how the Covid-19 pandemic was expected to send the jobless figures climbing and raised concerns this may lead organised crime groups to take advantage.
The Advertiser told in January how youth unemployment climbed during 2020.
In the year to last December, the number of young people aged 18 to 24 out of work rose by 128 per cent, with 2,385 unemployed.
Dr Billings said: “Many young people are at a critical milestone in life – leaving school, college or university. They may leave without a job and find themselves with little money.
“This can easily become a longer term and more deep-rooted issue as South Yorkshire is not a wealthy part of the country.
“Between 2010 and 2020, police budgets were cut and 20,000 officers were lost nationally, 500 of whom were in South Yorkshire.
“Organised crime groups took advantage of this and extended their operations, drawing in young people.
“They started grooming young people for criminal purposes, targeting young males with no job and poor prospects, an easy target.
“The gangs befriended them and used them to transport drugs. It looked like easy money but it led to deeper involvement in the drugs market. Young people began to be used to extend the gangs’ activities out of the towns and city and across county lines.”
Dr Billings said he feared that despite a U-turn on cuts in officer numbers, the current economic climate raised the prospect of a repeat of the increase in gang recruitment.