Troubled youths cops firm guidance
Mary Hayes and Const. John Foster wiath a youth. Picture: Steve Ferrier / The West Australian.

Standing outside a door in Balcatta, Const. John Foster waits patiently to see if his knocks are answered.

The family inside has become fairly accustomed to knocks by police in the past few years but the nature of Const. Foster's visit is vastly different to that of other officers who have visited in the past.

Const. Foster is WA's first youth liaison officer that sees him focus on problem youths or prolific offenders across his district of West Metropolitan.

Across the State, eight such officers have been assigned - three in the metropolitan districts and five in the regions including Kalgoorlie, South Hedland and Geraldton.

The position was born into controversy last year when Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan announced the withdrawal of officers from Police and Community Youth Centres in favour of them working primarily with children who need their support the most.

Acting Supt Sue Young, from the youth policing division, said the officers would use information from local police to target youths in the hope of diverting them "away from an offending lifestyle".

Const. Foster has been searching for those youths in boxing rings, basketball courts and shopping centres during school hours.

Youth liaison officers will join a range of service providers and organisations such as the Department for Child Protection and Department of Housing to help address the offenders' needs.

"You end up with a more holistic response in terms of the issues that are contributing to his offending and also the family situation that (they've) found themselves in," Acting Supt Young said. Const. Foster is helped by social workers such as livALIVE community care unit team leader Mary Hayes.

"It might take two or three weeks to engage them (the offenders), but we're willing to keep knocking on their door and keep trying to get them even when they try and jump the fence," Ms Hayes said.

The West Australian

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