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Reading and note taking – preparation for study
Reading and note taking – preparation for study

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2.3 Reading techniques: focused reading

Activity 4

Have a go at reading The Scotsman article again, this time in a more focused way. Think about each section of the text, breaking off at regular intervals in order to identify and extract the main points or examples, and jot down some notes and questions that come to mind as you read. You will find our feedback and comments noted in the "Now read the discussion" link beneath the article. Try not to read these until you have completed the activity.

Hamilton child safety curfew to be extended

Calls for scheme to go national, despite rise in crime on estates where trial held

Jim Wilson

The expansion of the so-called child curfew in Hamilton was announced yesterday as the Government called for the controversial scheme to be copied across Scotland.

The operation will now cover the whole of the Lanarkshire town, despite official research suggesting that crime rose in the three housing estates where it was launched a year ago.

The extension of the initiative, in which children out after dark are taken home, was announced as Strathclyde Police and the Scottish Office released analysis suggesting the community patrols have overwhelming support in the town.

Opinion polls in Hamilton, including one run by a local newspaper, revealed more than 90 per cent backing for the curfew, although more than half of all children thought police did not understand youngsters and stopped them for no reason.

Yesterday, the Scottish Office urged the other seven Scottish forces to copy the curfew, despite critics claiming the operation is unnecessary and heavy-handed.

No other Scottish force has voiced any interest in adopting a similar strategy but Henry McLeish, the Scottish Office home affairs minister, said every town and city could benefit. He said chief constables must decide their own operational strategies, but the success of the initiative in Hamilton could not be questioned and promised to send the new analysis to every force and police board.

‘I would be delighted to see this initiative copied and developed elsewhere,’ he said.

‘This should be the start of a huge debate about how best to reclaim our communities for decent, ordinary people.’

Research, commissioned by the Government and carried out by Stirling University, looked at the first six months of the operation, October 1997 to April 1998, and revealed that reported crime in the chosen estates fell by 23 per cent compared with the previous six months.

However, researchers concede seasonal trends meant more crimes are committed in summer and, when compared with the same six months of the year before, reported crime actually rose on the estates of White-hill, Hillhouse, and Fairhill, by 17 per cent.

In addition, a survey in Hillhouse revealed that, while 44 per cent of people felt safer since the curfew was launched, a rising number of residents, 84 per cent, would not now enter certain areas of the estate.

Critics claim police should already be protecting very young children and Save the Children in Scotland fears the rights of young people could be violated. Yesterday, the charity's director, Alison Davies, said the research demanded careful scrutiny. ‘The figures and factors underpinning the research must be studied closely’.

The Government is keen for the Hamilton scheme to be a template for adoption by forces across Britain, but John Orr, the Strathclyde chief constable, conceded the research was not wholly supportive.

He stressed, however, that complaints to the police had fallen by 20 per cent in the pilot areas while the initiative, which will be continued as a pilot project for another year, had won backing from parents, children, and traders.

He said the scheme had been misrepresented as a curfew intended to reduce crime, but had instead been driven by the need to protect vulnerable children and encourage their parents to take more responsibility.

He said: ‘The suggestion that officers are going around like dog-catchers snatching children off the streets is simply wrong. There has not been a single complaint about the initiative and it has clearly been given the community's seal of approval.’

Mr Orr said the number of community officers involved in the expanded initiative would have to be doubled, possibly trebled, from the two teams of six currently involved.

A total of 280 children have been returned home over the past year. Five were charged with offences. Seventy per cent were boys, 14 per cent were aged under eight years old, and almost ten per cent were drunk. Sixty-one children have been taken home in the last six months compared with 221 in the first half of the trial, and officers believe the reduction indicates that more parents are taking responsibility for their children.

Allan Miller, the director of the Scottish Centre for Human Rights, said there was legitimate scepticism concerning crime figures and claimed the research proved only that treating all youngsters as potential criminals is not the answer. He said ‘The statistics on crime complaints and safety perceptions are mixed if looked at on the whole. For the police, the lesson should be to listen to and understand young people and to recognise their needs and rights.’

Mr Miller said 77 per cent of the children taken home by police were aged 12 to 15 and had done nothing wrong. He said it was significant the scheme had been renamed since being launched to include the protection of youngsters.

Meanwhile, South Lanarkshire Council yesterday announced the opening of a new £3 million centre for young people as part of the increased provision of youth facilities.

Source: The Scotsman, 16 October 1998


Our attempt generated the following notes:

  • Hamilton child curfew police to be extended across Scotland, despite evidence of increased crime in launch areas.

  • Support in town for curfew triggered expansion: 90% local backing.

  • Critics claim it is a heavy-handed approach.

  • No other force has expressed interest, yet S.O. say every town could benefit so scheme will be publicized.

  • Stirling University research focused on first 6 months (Oct. 1997-April 1998):

    • reported crime fell by 23%,

    • but seasonal trends may account for this – compared with same period in previous year reported crime actually rose by 17%,

    • 44% of locals felt safer,

    • but 84% would not enter certain areas – a rise.

  • Critics, eg Save the Children in Scotland, argue the scheme is a violation of young people's rights and question its success.

  • Government support for scheme.

  • Strathclyde chief constable recognized research questioned effectiveness, but claimed 20% fall in police complaints and high levels of local support. Also claimed bad press for scheme – driven by concern for young people's safety and parental responsibility, not reducing crime.

  • Numbers of community officers involved set to rise.

  • 280 children returned home in past year, 5 charged; 70% boys; 14 % under 8 years; almost 10% drunk.

  • Reduction in numbers returned in second 6 months compared with first claimed as evidence of success re. increased parental responsibility.

  • Scottish Centre for Human Rights: critical of approach which sees children as potential criminals where 77% (aged 12–15) returned home had done nothing wrong. Calls for a listening, need focused approach to young people (renaming of the scheme not enough).

  • Council to open centre for young people to increase Youth facilities in area.

But, in addition, pausing to think about the material generated a number of questions including:

  • Would the scheme have the same results in a different area?

  • How was public opinion measured? Was everyone included in the survey?

  • What bad press has there been about the scheme? Does it matter if the results of the Stirling research show that the scheme is not effective?

  • Might the reduction of numbers returned home in the second period of the scheme be a result of something other than increased parental responsibility? For example, changes to the implementation of the scheme?

Again, you probably got some similar points and questions to us, missed others but included additional ones of your own. What is important is not that our notes are identical, but that (a) you used the technique of focused reading in order to successfully extract the main points of the article in a way that makes sense to you, and (b) actively engaged with the material in such a way as to generate questions and ideas, as opposed to passively reading it only to forget much of it at a later date.

One thing you might notice about both your notes and ours is that they are not very usefully organized. For example, we have noted down a number of criticisms levelled at the scheme but they are not grouped together in such a way as to enable us to compare and contrast them, or draw out any common issues that may recur. This overlap or repetition of key ideas, albeit in rather different forms and illustrated by different examples, makes our notes longer than they might be. Later, in Section 7, we will look at a number of ways we might create more helpful notes which group points together around key ideas, themes or concepts – very useful when it comes to planning and writing assignments. However, first it is useful to highlight some of the problems that you might come across, particularly when reading more complex materials.