Recent concerns in the UK about youth disaffection, anti-social behaviour and gang culture have led to an increase in pre-emptive intervention strategies focused on the policing of groups of young people. This article explores the literature on youth/police relationships and the evidence that suggests that preventive police strategies may have weakened these relationships and may also have had a negative impact on youth engagement in the law enforcement process. The article reports on the outcomes of a small-scale qualitative study conducted in two socially deprived communities in Glasgow (Scotland's largest city). The researchers gathered interview data from young people, police officers, youth workers and local community residents as a means of exploring the current relationship between young people and the police and the way in which local people view this relationship. The findings illustrate the existence of a localised cyclical relationship of mistrust alongside more ambivalent views by the local residents, youth and police. While resentful of police practices in general, young people and residents welcomed the prospect of a procedurally just police force to protect them; police officers valued the opportunity to uphold community safety, but still projected some cynical and stereotypical views. The article concludes with suggested implications for policy, practice and research.