The Commissioner

by Mark Burns Williamson
by Mark Burns Williamson

Times are increasingly tough for police officers and staff, those working for local authorities and other organisations working to keep our communities safe as severe government cuts continue to hit hard.

However over the last few weeks I have been out and about in the Bradford area to see first-hand the crucial work being done in our communities by Neighbourhood Policing Teams and our partners.

Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPTs) have been the bedrock of community policing for a number of years, ensuring people feel safe, and being the first port of call for any local problems or issues that may arise. It’s crucial I get out and visit officers and staff to hear about their good work and visit the communities they work within.

One such project locally that I visited just weeks ago helps to improve engagement between the community and police involves futsal, a version of five-a-side football which is played with a smaller, brighter and softer ball than the traditional game.

4I witnessed first-hand the success of the football scheme for deaf people in the city, when, along with officers I donned a football kit to take part in a very enjoyable game at the Prism Deaf Youth Club in Girlington.

Funding for the eight-week project was obtained from a lottery-funded scheme West Yorkshire Sportivate, which gives people aged 11 to 25 who are interested in sport the chance to experience it through a short programme of coaching.

It was launched by PC Jo Armstrong from the Bradford City Area Neighbourhood Team, who teamed up with Sam Allen from the deaf community to improve engagement between themselves and the police. A similar scheme has also been running at Hanson School Academy.

Sports such as futsal are a great way to promote community cohesion and increase self-esteem, confidence and motivation. I helped hand out certificates and medals to the youngsters that took part and was impressed with the commitment and those that made this very positive scheme happen.

I also attended the community contact point at Low Moor, Victoria Park, and spoke to the local volunteers, police and councillors about the work they do to run it. The contact point opens on Monday’s and Wednesdays from 09:30am to 11:30am and is an opportunity for local residents to get advice or report crimes. The dedication of the volunteers was clear to see and the difference it made in the local community was obvious in building up trust and confidence.

I was also in Keighley recently where I visited Lund Park and spoke to members of the public who live close by.

16There were a number of incidents of anti-social behaviour late last year that were reported to my office and I personally wanted to visit the area and speak to local people. I was reassured to hear that these kind of incidents are being dealt with by local NPT officers, who are providing reassurance to communities affected.

Another noteworthy development is the opening of the Bradford Centre of Excellence: Positive Pathways for Young People which is a new initiative that delivers targeted interventions about the consequences of crime.

The centre, which is located in Girlington Community Centre in the Toller area of Bradford, uses a series of theatrical sets, such as a courtroom, a prison cell, as well as a shop and park where crime might happen. Mentors can use these sets to get over to young people what crime can involve and the negative impact it can have on their lives, as well as victims, families and communities.

Experience from similar projects elsewhere in the country shows that these kinds of interventions deliver great improvement in the numbers of young people who return to mainstream education and refrain from further crime.

The initiative has been funded by Bradford Council and my Safer Communities Fund and has been developed in partnership with West Yorkshire Police and other partners in the youth justice system.

This is a great initiative for Bradford and for Yorkshire. Many young people aren’t aware of the consequences of crime. Raising awareness amongst young people of the impact crime can have on their life and the lives’ of other people is an important step in preventing crime and building a safer community.

All of the above are just a snapshot of the work being done in communities to make people feel safer and engage youngsters working with volunteers and NPTs. I am delighted to be able to visit these projects and use my Safer Communities Fund to be able to support some of this good work being done by charities and volunteers.

The next round of that fund should be ready to receive applications in the coming months.

So I believe it’s important to remember, despite the severe cuts and challenges faced by police and our partners, the vital work being done in communities, by police officers, staff, volunteers and the engagement of youngsters and adults alike.

I will continue to be out and about across Bradford and West Yorkshire, speaking to members of the public about policing and community safety and the concerns they face in their communities and ensuring our shrinking resources are effectively targeted in tackling crime and keeping our communities safe.

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