Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner’s view on how the force can engage with young people

Tim Passmore, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner.

Tim Passmore, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner. - Credit: Archant

In his latest column for The Journal, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner TIM PASSMORE looks at how the force can engage with young people.

Late last month we completed our third annual series of public meetings held across the county and I am very happy to report that once again we had a good attendance in the Waveney district with plenty of fascinating questions.

This year's Waveney meeting was held in The Rifle Hall in Halesworth and a key question raised was what actions I am taking as Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to engage and help our young people - the inference behind the comment was that young people are not all bad (a sentiment I would entirely agree with) as some are quite inspirational.

As we are nearing the end of the summer term it can be quite a challenging time for parents to keep youngsters occupied during the long holiday period so I am taking the opportunity to share with you some of what is going on.

It is of huge importance to me that we do whatever we can to support our young people as they are the key to our future. Whilst it is true that there are some simply outstanding youngsters in society there are, sadly, a small minority who lose their way.

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Very often this is through no fault of their own – they may have fallen into bad company, have poor or non-existent role models or parental guidance – so as a whole community we must strive to set a good example and provide opportunities for individuals to realise their full potential.

Of course education has a critical role to play as do parents – but society also can have a profound influence particularly through the voluntary sector so I would like to mention a few of the initiatives we support.

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Many years ago when I was only 22 I took over the running of a scout group in Suffolk which I did for 25 years and it was during this time I saw at first hand the benefits that arise if you give youngsters a real purpose in life and some real challenges.

So when I was elected as PCC I made a commitment to keeping the £700,000 Crime Disorder and reduction grant, which amongst other things, supports voluntary sector work with young people.

One of the first presentations I attended was the passing out of the latest group of police cadets at Kirkley School in Lowestoft. It was so humbling to witness the pride shown by themselves and their parents at the ceremony and see how the involvement in the programme enabled them to develop much greater self-confidence.

The scheme provides a spirit of adventure through a range of activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, positive leadership and good citizenship. The Suffolk Police Cadet scheme for young people aged 13-17, has been so successful that there is now an exciting programme rolling out the scheme county wide within 18 months.

There was another first for Lowestoft last November when the Suffolk Youth Organisations in Uniform launch took place at the Fire Station. It was a most impressive sight to see organisations including Scouts, police, army and air force cadets working together ably supported by a dedicated team of adult volunteers.

Sometimes we forget that youngsters are also victims of crime. The changing use of technology in our daily lives is a real help in many ways but, unfortunately, it also provides a platform for very unpleasant behaviour such as sexting, revenge pornography and cyber bullying.

The consequences of these crimes can be deeply damaging and upsetting for the victims, especially when young, and we must ensure our children develop a comprehensive understanding of on-line safety and etiquette. I highlight this difficulty when I visit schools and we are developing a project for primary school children. The intention is for young children to learn about the internet as soon as possible so good on-line behaviour becomes a matter of habit and they can keep safe.

Positive Futures does some tremendous work with youngsters up to the age of 19 in some of the county's more deprived areas. Their diversionary work includes confronting the menace of drug and alcohol abuse along with gang violence is achieving significant success.

I've no doubt that prevention is far more cost effective than trying to deal with a crime has been committed. The relationship has developed so well with Positive Futures that last year several young people were recommended by them to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy at Graffham Water.

This is a week's residential course for 19 to 25 year olds - very similar to the Outward Bound course, and I was delighted to address them at their closing dinner. The change in the character, confidence and resilience of the students was particularly impressive.

Finally it's quite clear that if we give our youngsters a suitable opportunity in life - and as Morecambe and Wise used to sing, 'Let's try positive thinking', there is great cause for optimism. Suffolk young people already make a huge contribution to making our county a very safe place to live, work, travel and invest.

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