Police aim to engage with youngsters as part of new initiative
A police team is looking to engage with youngsters as it aims to improve its relationship with the community.
Peterlee Neighbourhood Police Team has launched a programme in a bid to reduce anti-social behaviour.
The initiatives include youth provisions funded by Durham County Council and Peterlee Town Council, the installation of a community garden in Woodhouse Park and the targeting of specific behavioural complaints.
Inspector Lee Blakelock, who leads the team, said: “Community policing is about more than just locking people up and telling them off.
"That might mask a problem in the short term, but we’re looking to solve problems in the long term.
“We’re doing that with our ‘three Es’: Engage, Educate and Enforce.”
One scheme, which is called The Project, sees under-18s attend hour-long sessions educating on topics ranging from alcohol and drugs to sexual health and sexual exploitation.
Following the sessions - which are run by Groundworks North East and attended by about 50 people - attendees can take part in activities including table tennis and pool.
Another project gives youngsters the responsibility of their own flower bed and vegetable patches in the new garden at Woodhouse Park, which will be officially opened on Thursday, July 12.
The garden will produce a crop which will be grown, harvested and donated by the youngsters to foodbanks and care homes.
Police say the work so far has already led to a reduction in anti-social behaviour.
Olivia Ward, 15, from Peterlee, has been taking part in a pilot scheme to introduce her to the world of construction by repairing damage caused by anti-social behaviour, having previously been involved in anti-social behaviour herself.
Inspector Blakelock added: “Of course, some people will cause trouble regardless of our efforts, and we’ll continue to enforce against this.
“In particular, we’ve been working hard to identify those responsible for throwing stones at moving vehicles, and as a result nineteen young people have been seen and warned in front of their parents.
"Some of these children have been placed on anti-social behaviour contracts, and will be engaging in our stronger families programme.”
To highlight the positive work being achieved by young people, an awards evening was held last month to honour 10 youngsters.
The Peterlee Young Heroes Award will be an ongoing initiative to reward community stars.