COUNCILLORS in West Devon are being urged to encourage art to reduce anti-social behaviour (ASB) incidents in the area.

Criminal damage and low level vandalism has risen recently and town councillors have questioned whether there are enough police on the streets to deal with it, particularly in Okehampton.

Cllr Paul Vachon (Ind, Okehampton South) told a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee that in other countries and in prisons art is having marked effect on crime reduction and reoffending.

“It has been found that people who learn to be creative and artistic have more empathy with their community,” he said. 

“By giving children more artistic training, there has been quite a reduction in anti-social behaviour.

“It takes a period of 20 to 30 years to see the results of this.

“One of the problems we had with education was that a lot of art was dropped in favour of academic subjects. 

“That is changing now but we could teach people to be creative within our communities too.

“This doesn’t just apply to juniors but also to adults – it’s not just graffiti on the walls but fly-tipping and dog fouling – and these all have an impact on us as a council.”

He claimed the introduction of art in prisons had reduced reoffending by 14 per cent.

“We should be looking at what we can do in our areas to reduce anti-social behaviour,” he said.

Cllr Christopher West (Lib Dem, Burrator) said youth services had been cut over the last few years and he would like to see more young people get involved in their communities which in turn would have the most impact on ASB levels.