A JUNIOR football club, a community centre and a youth group are just some of the grass root initiatives celebrating news this week that they will receive a share of a £350,000 pot of cash – recovered from criminals in the North East.

The funding initiative, called Operation Payback, was set up by Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness. Its aim is simple – to put money recovered from drug dealers and other criminals back where it belongs – into the heart of local communities.

Many local projects and community groups that strive to improve lives in their area are set to receive a welcome cash boost to help keep making a positive difference in their neighbourhood often repairing the harm caused by crime.

A total of 24 groups are set to benefit from Payback including South Shields FC, Dunston Community Centre and YMCA Northumberland.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “There are some terrific groups who’ve taken it upon themselves to really turn things around in the area where they live. They’ve taken responsibility and they’re making a huge difference. I absolutely want to support them in doing this so we’re turning bad money into good. I want Payback to empower them further and bring their bright ideas to life.”

“A lot of successful bids centred on giving something for young people to get involved with in their spare time, heling prevent crime and anti-social behaviour. You see, local people are the ones who recognise and understand the issues that matter locally. They know how to solve them so we need to listen and help them put their ideas into action.”

Kim added: “I want every young person growing up in our region to have an equal chance of success whatever their circumstances and Payback will help them and their families to overcome challenges and reach their full potential.

“These groups do a great deal to make communities safer, prevent crime and reduce re-offending. I can’t think of a better way to reinvest cash from crime than to help steer young people onto a better future.”

YMCA Northumberland will be using their funding to deliver a diversionary youth programme and help prevent young people becoming involved in anti-social behaviour in Ashington.

South Shields FC Foundation will work with the Police and Youth Justice Service to run a project for young people at risk of offending or re-offending.

Steve Camm, manager at the Foundation, said: “This is a really exciting project and we can’t wait to get started. We are grateful for the Police and Crime Commissioner’s support which will enable us to further extend the impact the Club already has in the local community”.

“We’ll be working closely with the Police and Youth Justice Service to identify and engage young people at risk and provide them with positive preventative activities, including football and boxing, with the aim of reducing crime and the impact of crime in our community.”

Dunston Community Centre will be supporting young adults who have been excluded from school, expelled or served community sentences, helping them to become mentors and encourage others to take responsibility for their actions.

Brenda Clelland from the community centre, said: “This funding will help us to really tackle the youth-related anti-social behaviour and petty crime which plagues our neighbourhood by directly addressing the underlying issues, helping the young people to make positive changes and choices which benefit, not damage, our local community.”

In the years to come the fund will be topped up with some of the money seized from criminal activity under the Proceeds of Crime Act (PoCA), with some recovered funds also going to Northumbria Police to help them target more criminals.

For more information about Operation Payback and to view the full list of beneficiaries visit here.