Bobbies on patrol in Norwich schools

Full-time police officers are becoming a common sight in a growing number of Norfolk high schools as they seek new ways to root out criminal behaviour before it develops.

Police constables and police community support officers (PCSOs) are now based in more than 20 schools.

Rob Anthony, associate headteacher at the Hewett School in Norwich, said it was going back to the days of the old village bobby – out on the beat and knowing everyone by name.

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.

Sgt Tim Horrobin, safer schools partnerships sergeant in Norfolk, said: 'We solve so many grassroots problems by being in the schools. If we can iron out issues in schools, we are not going to get problems later on.

'Through this, we are getting less criminalisation of young people. They can learn from their mistakes.'

And he said: 'I have talked to school staff, students and police officers, and they have told me that schools in the SSP are calmer, safer places.

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'Because of the calmer atmosphere, there is the chance to deliver better teaching and learning. There are also fewer incidents of bullying.'

A freedom of information request found there were 713 crimes recorded at Norfolk schools in 2009-10 – although the figures are not reliable because of the different ways that schools deal with offences.

There were 55 assaults causing actual bodily harm, 17 sexual offences, four of possessing a knife, nine of drug possession and almost 200 offences of criminal damage.

One of the police at the school frontline is PC Nichola Jessop, who has worked full-time at the Hewett School as a safer schools partnership officer for a year after leaving the CID.

She said: 'Two really serious incidents have needed me to take further action. Two year 11 boys had a fight which was dealt with at the time. It is the only time I have had to use my handcuffs in school.

'I have confiscated a kitchen knife off a pupil, which they brought in for their cooking class. We have to have enough information to be able to search somebody. Police action wasn't needed because the school action that was taken dealt with the consequences.'

She added: 'I have dealt with one drug-related incident. There was suspicion of a student having drugs and a small group was searched. A tiny amount of a controlled drug was found and the student was excluded.'

PC Jessop delivers a week of assemblies every half term, discussing drugs and alcohol, knife and gun crime, bullying and peer pressure, abusive behaviour and causes of crime.

She said: 'I can also deliver one-to-one sessions if it is required after a specific incident. I talk the pupil through what would happen if they did it outside school.'

She added: 'When police deal with an incident or a crime it is investigated. We are saving that cost. The involvement with the children now will take them away from a life of crime. We are making a difference to that person's future.'

Mr Anthony said: 'One of the most useful things about having Nichola here is building the relationship between young people and the police.

'It is a bit like the old traditional village bobby. They walk around the community and know everyone. She fulfils that role. She is aware of students who are having difficulties.

'We were offered a police officer by the safer neighbourhood team and the more we thought about it, the more positives we could see.

'Too often children see the police as a threat or they see them in difficult circumstances. Here they can meet a police officer on a daily basis, have a chat and build a relationship.'