Award-winning scheme helping to keep kids safe

Young people are being removed from the risk of crime
Young people are being removed from the risk of crime

An award-winning scheme has been hailed a success by slashing anti-social behaviour and helping keep young people safe on the streets of South Tyneside.

Since the launch of Operation Safestop, almost 10 years ago around 1,500 children and teenagers have been taken into police protection after being deemed as vulnerable by officers patrolling the streets at night.

Acting Inspector Steve Prested

Acting Inspector Steve Prested

Of those, 10% have gone on to disclose concerns leading to child protection cases being created.

Anti-social behaviour on Friday and Saturday nights has also fallen from almost 14,000 reports in 2008/9 to just over 4,000 in 2016/17.

The scheme involves a dedicated team of officers patrolling the streets of South Tyneside.

Any youngsters they come across who they deem to be at risk of becoming a victim of crime or committing a crime - either through their own behaviour, underage drinking, taking drugs, being in a disorderly group, or through the behaviour of others - are taken into police protection and to a place of safety.

We know it is having an impact as anti-social behaviour has dramatically reduced but it’s also helping to keep young people safe.

Acting Inspector Steve Prested

They are then spoken to their parents contacted.

Sergeant Steve Prested said: “The young people aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong, the issue is one of vulnerability.

“When they are brought into police protection, their parents are also contacted.

“This is about taking young people out of a situation where they could be at risk of harm. We have a lot of parents who are grateful for our intervention.”

He added: “We know it is having an impact as anti-social behaviour has dramatically reduced but it’s also helping to keep young people safe.”

Over the years the scheme has won a number of awards over the years including the Pride of South Tyneside and a Police Excellence Award.

Youth Justice Service Manager Pam Vedhara MBE said: “I appreciate 4,000 incidents is still too many, every incident is one too many. We are not suggesting this programme is a catch all.

“But it’s a programme that people may or may not know about.

“If five children a year come through the doors, and if one of them talks, and they do talk, and a child protection concern is highlighted, and we can then look further and deal with that, than for me, regardless of the reduction in anti-social behaviour, it’s all been worth it, as we have been able to pick up on something that may never have been picked up - and if that’s all we had achieved then we have done something worthwhile.”

The scheme has received praised from a number of councillors as a “scheme that is needed” and a “fabulous initiative.”