A POLICE chief has called on all forces to tackle so-called “troubled families” to stop the “generational inevitability of crime”.

Ahead of the first national police Troubled Families conference in Durham, Durham Police Chief Constable Mike Barton spoke of the “sinking feeling” he had experienced when he arrested the teenage grandson of the first burglar he ever caught and how it made him realise the state must work differently.

“All the notorious families I’m targeting have children and it’s crucial those children are given the chance not to follow their parents into a life of crime. Sending someone to prison costs as much as sending them to Eton. Why would we do that?”

The government introduced the Troubled Families scheme in 2012, to target 120,000 families with health, schooling and anti-social behaviour issues. Families involved are assigned a lead professional, so they have one point of contact and support.

By June, official figures suggested 116,654 of the families had been “turned around” and the Prime Minister announced a second phase, targeting another 400,000 families over the next five years and, for the first time, making the police central to the initiative.

Mr Barton, who is the police’s national leader for the programme, said his officers were not “principally social workers” but it was part of their job, adding: “The police cannot retreat back to just arresting people and putting them before a court.

“The way to cut crime is to change the way villains think. More and more I’m insisting my staff become experts in how people think. The best cops have always been good at that. It’s just increasingly we’re understanding the science behind it.

“This is just another dimension of 21st century policing that we’re proud to deliver.”

Questioned over the use of resources at a time of police budget cuts, Mr Barton said: “The public have already decided we should be part of that social care function.

“80 per cent of the calls we get are from people concerned about others. I didn’t instruct people to ring me up about these people.

“I think it’s legitimate and sensible. If you don’t get upstream, you’ll never know why people are falling into the river. It’s crucial to stop demand upstream so that we can deal with the emergency 999 calls that inevitably happen every day.”

The conference is being held at the Radisson Blu Hotel today and tomorrow (Monday and Tuesday), with 200 guests representing every police force.

Across County Durham and Darlington, 1,595 troubled families were “turned around” in the first phase of the scheme – 100 per cent of those targeted. A total of 5,280 more will be targeted over phase two. Work is already under way with 1,600.