Plans to tackle anti-social behaviour in Stirling including the appointment of a city centre peer mentor have been officially launched.
Stakeholders and business owners from across Stirling met at the headquarters of Stirling Community Enterprise (SCE) in Raploch for the project launch and to hear from Peer Mentor Craig McIntosh and other speakers.
They included Go Forth Stirling BID and Police Scotland who have helped fund the peer mentor post in partnership with SCE and a grant from the Stirlingshire Voluntary Enterprise Community Justice Fund.
The project aims to support a safer, welcoming and more resilient city by reducing anti-social behaviours and providing alternative positive pathways for potential offenders.
Gary Turnbull, Centre Director at the Thistles in Stirling, outlined how a working group was established at the start of the year to tackle the business community’s concerns over anti-social behaviour in the city and its effect on consumer confidence.
He said: “We set up the working group to address what we were experiencing from large groups of youths who were causing chaos by being abusive and through vandalism and theft which impacts the business economy and gives visitors a bad experience.
“We were looking for ways to work with the police to reduce anti-social behaviour, engage with young people and find alternative activities for them and as such we fully support the new project.”
Ally Scott, Operations Manager at SCE, described how the project will see Craig McIntosh work with young people, build relationships and over time help them find alternative, more positive pathways.
He said: “We wanted to get out onto the streets and have a peer mentor with lived experience talk to the young people and find a way to make sustainable change – that’s what the project is all about.
“We’ve been working with community police officers to identify young people and we want to engage with them and their families.
“We are able to see their potential and give them opportunities to gain and sustain potential job opportunities.”
Craig began his role as the city centre’s peer mentor two months ago and has already made a difference to the lives of young people involved in anti-social behaviour.
One teenager told how he enrolled in college following support from Stirling Community Enterprise.
He said: “I was part of a group who used to cause trouble and go climbing on the roof of the Thistles before I realised I needed help to change my ways and couldn’t keep on terrorising people. I’ve been working with Craig to improve my life and I’m trying to make amends now. I’ve separated myself from the group, am staying away from the police and going to college.”
Meanwhile, Craig shared his experiences and described how he wants to use his lived experience to help and support young people.
He said: “From the age of 13 until I was 20, I was drinking and getting into fights – and I hit rock bottom when my solicitor told me I could end up going to jail.
“It was at that point I stopped drinking and got myself onto a positive path. I became involved in mixed martial arts and later coached it and have managed to go all over world competing with it. It was a turning point for me and now I’m using my experience to undertake outreach work and divert people to what we can offer them at SCE.
“I’m having conversations and directing them to help such as supporting them to get ready for jobs and practical skills like learning carpentry. It’s all about letting young people know we are here for them and can help.”
Craig is based at SCE and works closely with other Stirling organisations who are collaborating to combat anti-social behaviour including Go Forth’s Street Ambassadors, Stirling Street Pastors and community police officers.
Danielle McRorie-Smith, Project Director at Go Forth Stirling, said: “Anti-social behaviour in the city centre has had a negative impact on the Stirling businesses we represent so we’ve been working hard with our partners to deliver solutions.
“Increased police visibility can function as a deterrent; however, we recognised the importance of addressing the wider underlying societal, educational and economic factors which contribute to anti-social behaviour and the need to tackle these if we are to succeed in dealing with the issue on a long-term basis.
“This is where the peer-led approach comes in and it’s encouraging to see how Craig is already building a rapport with disenfranchised young people and helping provide pathways for them including into employment, education and training opportunities.
“This will help reduce anti-social behaviour and strengthen confidence in Stirling’s day and night-time economies by encouraging more people to come into the city to shop or enjoy a night out.”
Pictured from the left: Alan Imrie, Gary Turnbull, Craig McIntosh, Tracey McFall, Marie Valent