Schools and Police Working Together to Fight Gang Culture
Byline: Stuart Hyde
AGENDA Last week The Birmingham Post reported Superintendent Tom Coughlan's claims that head teachers in Birmingham were in denial over the number of children in their care who are joining vicious gangs. It sparked a wave of criticism. Today West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Hyde explains how schools and police are working together to tackle the problem
Following a recent news story in The Birmingham Post which talked about the issue of gangs within local schools, I have taken the opportunity to clarify some of the points made in the piece and highlight the excellent working relationship West Midlands Police has with our schools.
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge all the good work being done by local schools to address challenges they and their students have in tackling gang issues. Birmingham and the West Midlands is a fantastic place to grow up, go to school and learn and West Midlands Police will do all it can to help create the environment to let young people flourish.
A national policing model for schools - Safer School Partnerships - was launched in 2002, and provided a very focused approach to address the high level of crime and anti-social behaviour committed in and around schools in some areas.
Since the partnership was launched, we have introduced locally-based officers who are dedicated to working out of schools.
We have 31 officers who are dedicated to working within secondary schools across the force area, from Wolverhampton to Coventry.
These officers carry out key roles in schools by helping break down barriers with young people and staff, they are also more accessible and readily available to assist and advise young people.
There are several levels of youth engagement within the West Midlands. At primary school age, Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) will go into schools to offer support and guidance to pupils, parents and school staff. When year 6 pupils are transferring to secondary schools, a schools-based officer, school link officer or neighbourhood officer working within secondary schools, will provide an introduction and ease the path for the pupils.
Schools generally feel police support and occasional presence is beneficial and helps reduce crime as well as making the police service more approachable - these roles really help bridge the gap between young people and the police.
Alongside local schools we have launched key initiatives such as 'Tooled Up for School'.
This initiative was launched two years ago and aimed specifically at 11 to 16-year-olds and helping them to feel more safe and secure and resist the need to carry an offensive weapon.
The scheme brings together speakers, teaching staff, local police, drama workshops and music, to create a sense of reality to what carrying a knife means.
This initiative has been rolled out to hundreds of West Midlands' schools and thousands of young people. The initiative is delivered by police officers, teaching staff and youth professionals.
A number of schools have erected mobile metal arches and used hand held wands to detect any pupils carrying weapons into school. This is done on an ad hoc basis and acts as a deterrent.
Our approach is to support schools wherever possible in partnership with the Local Authority, using these initiatives to engage with, and prevent children becoming involved in crime.
Our programmes with schools are targeted at those who are likely to be more vulnerable to a knife problem or a gang problem. …