Police target 200 children in 'Bebo' swoop
POLICE have swooped on the homes of nearly 200 children identified on internet sites such as Bebo, glorifying gang violence, drinking and taking drugs.
Central Scotland Police trawled Bebo and other social networking sites over several weeks during Operation Pincer, which the force itself described as "intrusive".
A total of 182 youngsters – 80 in Falkirk, 37 in Clackmannanshire and 66 in the Stirling district – received visits from police after a catalogue of alarming comments, photographs and videos were uncovered.
They included footage of a youngster stamping on another boy's head, pictures of teenagers brandishing large amounts of alcohol and images of guns.
As a result of the operation, the alleged perpetrator of a serious assault was arrested and several people were reported for breaching bail.
Central Scotland Police said parents were "shocked and horrified" when officers revealed what their children had been up to.
In all cases, officers identified the youngsters, aged 12 to 18, from their photos and videos posted on the websites.
Derek Penman, Assistant Chief Constable of Central Scotland Police, said:
"When we started looking, what became clear was that young people, aged from very early teens through to late teens and young adulthood, were involved in open displays of aggression and other unacceptable behaviour, apparently fuelled by drink in many cases.
"We found a wide range of content which raised child-safety issues. This included young people being involved in the abuse of alcohol, potentially exposing themselves to violence, possession of weapons, racism and sectarianism.
"Other intelligence was gathered relating to drug dealing."
Mr Penman said that all 182 young people targeted by the operation were interviewed by officers about their online activity in the presence of their parents or guardians.
He said: "In many cases, the parents were simply unaware of their child's use of social networking in this way, and their reaction ranged from shock to disgust."
Police say they will "continue to monitor the situation" over the coming weeks and further visits are planned.
Mr Penman added: "This has been about being intelligence-led from the start, to tackle a long-standing problem of antisocial behaviour, youth disorder and under-age alcohol abuse – something our communities tell us is their biggest concern – which was being driven by young people's use of the internet."
Social-work leaders welcomed the operation.
Graham Lambie, children's safety leader at Stirling Council, said young people were "prepared to expose themselves to high levels of risk in relation to the misuse of alcohol and participation in gang-related activity including the use of weapons".
He added: "We will continue to liaise closely with the police on this operation and there will be follow-up work with the families and young people concerned."
Faithbook, the new networking site to counter extremism
THE increasing power of social networking sites is to be harnessed in an attempt to combat extremism and improve relations between the major faiths.
Faithbook, a social networking facility for people of different faiths, goes live on Facebook today with discussion boards, prayers, photographs and videos.
The organisers hope the initiative, created by the Movement for Reform Judaism in Britain, will attract a worldwide following.
Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, executive director of the organisation said: "It is absolutely essential that we fully utilise social networking tools, which is the way that so many people are starting to communicate.
"So much has happened with new media, it has become a place where extremists can construct messages of hate and intolerance. We have got to combat that and create a space where people who may not meet face to face can have a constructive debate."
Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, director of the Muslim Institute and co-founder of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, said: "Irrespective of whatever cultural baggage we carry or faith that we follow, we have to recognise that our creator is the same whatever we call him.
"We have to recognise that your origin, your spirit and my spirit, is the same, that is that spirit of God.
The site's spokesman Simon Cohen said: "In the same way that new friendships are forged on Facebook, we hope that this will have the same effect without compromising different faiths."
Teachers have no idea of the threat within
ATTACKING another pupil or even a teacher will often, quite rightly, find a child excluded from the school.
But what happens next has caused some alarm among the teaching profession.
Security has been tightened up at the school gates to prevent dangers from outwith school grounds hurting children.
But sources have told The Scotsman there is a more imminent danger presented from within the school itself.
The threat is from aggressive children who have been turfed out of other schools for violence.
They may have been excluded from one school, but there is nothing to stop them enrolling at another.
Often the background of these pupils is not made known to class teachers, who have no idea of the time-bomb in their classroom.
A source revealed: "If you ask teachers why a pupil has started at the school halfway through the term, they often won't know.
"This girl or boy is able to simply walk through the front door and they are a health and safety risk to teachers."
Teachers' unions in Scotland have been warning for years of the growing problem of violent pupils.
Now the biggest teaching union in Scotland, the EIS, is to discuss a motion this week demanding teachers have the right to refuse to accept a violent pupil into their class.
One member said the topic was bound to stir up emotions at the conference and it is likely to provoke heated debate.
They also revealed members will be unhappy if no action is forthcoming in the near future as they consider discipline near the top of the agenda.
Meanwhile even the external security is causing fresh worry.
Steel gates, iron railings and intercom systems are proving no barrier to complacency.
The Scotsman has been told security has slipped at some schools across the country.
A source who travels to schools across Scotland revealed he is regularly able to walk into school buildings without being challenged.
He said: "I visit a lot of schools and often there are three or four ways to gain entry."
Wounds have begun to heal after the traumatic events at Dunblane Primary in 1996, but a scar remains.
And now teachers fear the threat from within the gates more than the dangers outside.
They are demanding action before they will feel truly safe.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west