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Young people have their say on policing

An all-party parliamentary group for children recently published the findings of an 18-month inquiry, which said that children and young people’s first contact with the police was vital in shaping their attitudes towards them.

Once a negative encounter has occurred, it takes time and hard work to change ingrained attitudes, which are often passed on from one generation to the next.

Understanding the views of young people and helping them have a more positive attitude towards the police is one of the aims of work being undertaken by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire.

Sir Graham Bright, Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I strongly believe that young people need as much support as possible to help set them on the right path and keep them away from a life of crime. This can be helped by engaging with them in the right setting, providing things for them to do and giving them a better understanding of the police and their role. It also helps us understand how young people feel about the criminal justice system and policing. This is why I am funding a number of projects that engage with young people.”

Some of the initiatives under way include:

School forums – the Commissioner’s Outreach Worker is running a series of forums in schools across Peterborough and Fenland which give students an opportunity to have their say on policing and crime. Sessions are held across Years 7, 10 and 11 discussing topics such as policing priorities from their point of view, reporting crime, anti-social behaviour, hate crime and relationships with the police. Peterborough Rape Crisis are also delivering a session to determine young people’s understanding and perspectives of sexual violence. These sessions are not so much to educate as to listen to what young people have to say.

Although the majority of students involved do trust the police, it will often depend on the police officer and how they engage with each other. Many students feel they are treated differently, in a negative way, just because they are younger.

Police cadets – Cambridgeshire’s first Police Cadets scheme starts in Peterborough on 05 November. The scheme will promote a practical understanding of policing among young people and encourage the spirit of adventure and good citizenship through volunteering in the community. The cadets will meet once a week for two hours to take part in a mix of structured learning and physical activities based on nationally approved training.  In addition to the weekly meetings Cadets will be expected to complete 3 hours of volunteering each month perhaps by supporting crime prevention initiatives or attending community events. This can also count towards formal qualifications and evidencing voluntary work for the Princes Trust/ Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Each unit will be supported by a team of volunteer leaders who will be responsible for the cadet group and their weekly activities.

Youth fund – The aim of the Youth Fund is to engage young people in positive activities in their community in line with the Commissioner’s pledge to ‘support work with young people to divert them away from a life of crime’. Charities and community groups can bid for grants of up to £2,000 through the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation. The projects must be related to activities that have the potential to reduce youth