Police helping to drive down crime in Norwich schools

An innovative way of rooting out criminal behaviour before it develops has seen anti-social behaviour in and around one Norwich school fall by almost 80pc.

Full time police officers and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) have been placed in schools in Norwich and other parts of Norfolk as part of the Safer Schools' Partnership (SSP) involving local schools, Safer Neighbourhood Teams and local authorities.

The scheme, which was piloted in 2006, has seen full time officers placed at some of the most challenging schools in areas like Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Thetford with further officers to be placed in the King's Lynn area next year.

Operating a problem solving approach, officers have helped successfully tackle anti-social behaviour and crime in and around more than 20 schools in the county.

Latest figures show anti-social behaviour in the area around the Hewett School - one of the biggest secondary schools in the city - has fallen by 78pc with crime falling by 14pc.

Rob Anthony, senior associate headteacher at the Cecil Road-based school, where PC Nichola Jessop has been working with staff and students to drive down crime, said: 'For us the real advantage of having a police officer on site is getting the children used to dealing with the police on a day-to-day basis in a positive way.

'In the past when young people have met police it's often been as a result of something bad happening in their lives or that they've got themselves into trouble whereas with Nichola on site its a far more positive reaction to start with.'

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Mr Anthony said the scheme had helped give students a far more positive outlook about police and their role in society.

He said: 'They understand they are not just there to tell them off but there to protect them and help support them and it's just been such a fantastic outcome of the whole project.

'When it was first suggested we weren't quite sure what the impact would be and thought we don't really need a police officer, but having had one for a period of time we can now see the benefits and think what would we do if we didn't have one.'

Officers, who work to enhance young people's sense of community, building good relationships, trust and mutual respect with them, are also working full time at other schools in Norwich, including the City Academy, the Open Academy and Sewell Park College.

While figures for other schools show the scheme is also proving a success in other parts of the county too, including Great Yarmouth High School which has seen a 46pc reduction in anti-social behaviour and an 8pc fall in crime.

Tim Horrobin, Safer Schools Partnership sergeant in Norfolk, said: 'This initiative benefits all those involved. 'Young People are helped to reach higher standards whilst any actions officers take in partnership with the schools reassures everyone involved in that school community that issues of concern will be positively tackled.

'By adopting such a partnership approach to problem solving the complex needs and social issues affecting young people, we see a marked improvement in other areas.'

Norfolk has a tiered approach, all 51 secondary schools within the scheme have been ranked according to a range of indicators including anti-social behaviour, crime, truancy, income deprivation and academic achievement.

The 10 schools in tier one have a full time police presence with those ranked lower having a programme of interaction with their local SNTs ranging on a couple of hours a week to a couple of days.

Norfolk Constabulary's deputy chief constable Simon Bailey said the Safer Schools' Partnership was 'undoubtedly playing a significant role' in reducing anti-social behaviour figures across the whole county.

He said: 'We've seen some really significant progress as a result of that work, particularly in tier one schools.

'We're seeing really significant improvements in performance which is enhancing the quality of education and life for students and the people living and working in the school environment and we can see the positive effect it's having.'

Despite the public services cash squeeze, Norfolk Constabulary is so pleased with the results of the Safer Schools Partnerships (SSPs) that it wants a police officer or PCSO in every high school in the next few years.

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Have you got a crime story? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk