Investment of time will benefit

PUBLISHED: 09:09 17 July 2006 | UPDATED: 09:36 24 May 2010

I AM taking the unusual step of responding to a letter in your Opinion page on June 30 from Cllr Clive Webb querying police activity in schools

I AM taking the unusual step of responding to a letter in your Opinion page on June 30 from Cllr Clive Webb querying police activity in schools. Firstly, I should point out that the anti-smoking work was not carried out by police officers. This particular piece of work was done by a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO). Their role has been well publicised in the Mercury and other media over the last three years and I have personally briefed the District Council about PCSOs and indeed North Somerset Council has made a financial contribution to support their presence in North Somerset.Their primary role is to reduce crime and the fear of crime through a high visibility presence in neighbourhoods, supporting and strengthening the community. They build strong links within the community within which they are based, and work with partners to help maintain or improve the quality of life there.In this case, the PCSO concerned was a member of the South Ward Community Policing Team. Work in schools is vital in assisting children and young people to learn about and understand consequences of their actions and behaviour. Whatever vehicle the police use to work with youngsters (in this case the smoking issue), we find a degree of respect and understanding develops which helps communities tackle antisocial behaviour, and increased trust and confidence in the police.On a broader note, Cllr Webb makes reference to officers being trained to work in schools. The comments are ill informed. Recent research has shown that in North Somerset, 10 to 16-year-old people are involved as victims, suspects or offenders in 10 percent of all reported crime, 18 percent of minor assaults and 25 percent of criminal damage. We have to find creative ways to reduce the involvement of youngsters in crime and disorder. It is vital that beat officers are fully engaged with the secondary schools on their beats, and the headteachers of North Somerset agree with me.Officers are actively involved with schools around the district. However to formalise our approach we have developed a training package for officers who will work in schools regularly to ensure they have the appropriate skills and confidence to work alongside teachers. The course is three days long, and will take place at Broadoak School (not Portishead), again demonstrating the strength of the partnerships we have locally.I firmly believe this investment of time will benefit our communities in the short and long term. The type of violent and antisocial behaviour Cllr Webb mentions in his letter can never be solved by enforcement alone. As a community we all must work together to help young people understand how to look after themselves and their peers, and how to understand and be responsible for the consequences of their actions. Of equal importance is the concept of building relationships with young people so we understand their views and needs too.These are our children, and I hope now that Cllr Webb has the full picture, he will agree that when viewed in the context of a much wider agenda, half an hour of a PCSO's time talking to small children about smoking is time well spent.TRACY HAYLER - Chief Superintendent, North Somerset Police

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