An anti-social behaviour busting partnership with engagement at its core has been shortlisted for two prestigious awards.
Project Vita, a joint initiative between Northumbria Police and North Tyneside Council sprang into life in early 2020 with the aim of steering youth away from trouble and offering them confidence boosting opportunities to build life skills, while reducing ASB in the areas of Wallsend and Howden.
A key focus for the project is to engage with young people who are out in the community gathering in large numbers and perceived to be ‘intimidating’, approach those groups and start to build dialogue to find out what they are doing, why they are there and what and what they would like to see provided for young people.
These engagements also provide opportunities to identify any vulnerable young people to be able to offer support and advice at the earliest opportunity.
The project also received generous funding to the tune of £130,000 from Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness.
Half of the grant was used to convert unused space in a council customer contact centre in Wallsend into a base for local police, youth workers and community protection officers to work from.
The neighbourhood policing team moved from their headquarters on the outskirts of town to the base early this year and have praised the multi-partnership approach.
And, the other half of the funding is being channelled into projects to reduce youth-related crime and ASB with teams providing more out-of-hours and weekend outreach support in the community.
Just 18 months on, the project has now been shortlisted by the Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) for two awards – Best Community and Neighbourhood Initiative and Best Collaborative working Initiative.
Judges will make a decision on the national winners later this month.
The Local Government Association have also highlighted the project as a model of best practice.
Inspector Tom Hart who leads the neighbourhood policing team, said: “The move to Wallsend town centre and working side-by-side with colleagues from the council has seen a huge change to how we can engage with the community and in particular the area’s young adults.
“That joined up approach to tackling youth disorder means there’s more emphasis on not just curbing ASB but understanding the root causes and how we can change attitudes, all while reaching out to some of the most vulnerable children in the area.
He added: “It’s great to see that the project has been shortlisted for two awards and recognised nationally by the Local Government Association.”
Feedback from the teens revealed they wanted to have a safe space to meet up with friends and have that space to just hang out.
A suitable community venue was identified and opened out of normal hours so that there was an area exclusively for young.
The pandemic unfortunately saw a stop to the drop in sessions but there are plans in place for them to return.
Councillor Carole Burdis, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Engagement at North Tyneside Council, said: “The success of this initiative so far is down to the hard work and dedication of our community protection staff, the police and other community partners.
“Together, we are working to tackle antisocial behaviour at the root, and engaging with young people to help them understand the consequence of their actions and make more positive decisions in future.
“North Tyneside is one of the safest place in the country to live, work and visit, and initiatives such as Project Vita play a big part in maintaining that. I am very proud of everyone involved in the project for being shortlisted and I wish them further success in the awards.”
Police and Crime Commissioner McGuinness added: “Tackling ASB is a priority for local residents and it is a priority for me. There is still much work to be done to make sure everyone feels at ease in their neighbourhood, but with projects such as this we are showing that change can happen.
“I’m grateful to Northumbria Police and others for the hard work they have put in to make this scheme a success.
“As your police commissioner I am committing to supporting our police to fight crime and working with others to prevent crime, and a key part if that is talking to young people and telling them there is an alternative available if they want to work with us.”