A project has been set up to steer young people away from gangs and crime in an inner-city neighbourhood.

Bradford Community Safety Partnership is ploughing £148,000 into creating a centre of excellence at Girlington Community Centre.

It will form the headquarters of a multi-agency partnership project to divert youngsters away from a life of crime before they end up on a downward spiral.

The aim is to reduce crime, anti-social behaviour and school exclusions among people aged between ten and 20. The programme will also provide existing offenders and ex-offenders with support during their rehabilitation.

Bradford Council has been working with West Yorkshire Police and Con-sequence, a community group of volunteers, to produce an intensive programme of mentoring and support to young people.

The Centre of Excellence has been developed from an earlier successful project, Manningham and Girlington Influencing Change (MAGIC).

It will target those seen to be most at-risk of drifting into a life of crime, such as gang members, youngsters involved in the youth justice system and those who parents or schools are worried about their behaviour.

The programme will consist of intensive activities including tackling anti-social behaviour, drug-taking, drug dealing and the misuse of alcohol. The first intake is planned for this summer.

Councillor Imran Hussain, deputy leader of Bradford Council and chairman of the Bradford District Community Safety Partnership, said: “Many of the most prolific offenders commit their first crimes at a very early age. If we can get involved with them at this age we can prevent their anti-social behaviour developing into a life of serious criminality and low achievement.

“So far, the MAGIC project has been extremely successful working with young people in challenging and changing their behaviour for the better. The funding for the Centre of Excellence will allow us to expand and build on that success.”

Chief Superintendent Simon Atkin, the police commander for Bradford District, said: “This Centre of Excellence will provide much-needed support and guidance to those youngsters at risk of drifting into crime, as well as working with offenders who are looking for ongoing support to prevent any return to criminality.”