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New project to divert children away from crime launched in north London

News   •   Oct 23, 2020 06:01 BST

An intervention programme to divert children in police custody away from crime has been launched in north London.

‘Operation Alliance’, a project aimed at working with young people aged between 10 and 18-years-old in custody and diverting them away from crime and reoffending has been launched in Wood Green, Haringey.

The initiative has been formed through a partnership between the Met and charities Oasis Hadley and The Children’s Society, as well as Haringey and Enfield Council Children Services. It will see four youth outreach workers embedded in Wood Green Custody Suite until March 2021, with the aim to build on the partnerships and continue this programme longer-term.

The outreach workers will be responsible for the initial engagement with any child who is arrested and brought into the custody suite, to understand more about their personal circumstances, their motivations and their support networks. A key part of the outreach workers' role will also be to pick up on potential signs of exploitation and grooming by others, to ensure these children get the help they need. They will seek to build a rapport with the child and use their time in custody as a reachable moment in which to support them and review appropriate interventions to divert them away from crime.

Following their release from custody, the outreach workers will meet the young person and their parents or carers again within 24 to 48 hours to present possible diversionary options tailored to their interests – be that educational, mentoring schemes, sports clubs or other opportunities through local partner agencies and charities.

The overarching ambition is that this initiative will further reduce the risk of these children re-entering the criminal justice system and ensure they are engaged with at the earliest opportunity to support them away from criminality and potential violence, in turn helping to keep communities safe.

Detective Chief Superintendent Treena Fleming, Commander for Haringey and Enfield, said: “We recognise that intervention is key in diverting young people away from a life of criminality, and that custody is an opportune moment to give support to a young person when they need it most. This project will also allow these conversations and relationships to progress outside of a custody setting, offering a longer term solution.

“The arrest of any young person is a significant event, and it can act as a trigger for a moment of self-reflection and for them to re-evaluate the path they are treading. The support offered by Operation Alliance gives children an opportunity to turn their lives around and we hope will be the catalyst for change.

“Working with our partners within the Local Authority and charitable sector, this programme will be a gateway for us to gain a better understanding of how we can best support children, to help us prevent them committing crime in the first place.”

Enfield Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Cohesion, Cllr Nneka Keazor, said: “I fully support this scheme, which will help divert young people from crime and give statutory agencies the chance to intervene extensively the first time those young people come to the attention of the police and divert them away from crime.

“Providing support at an early stage will maximise our chances of tackling the root causes of crime and enable children and young people who need support, to receive it. This will improve their chances of attaining their goals and improve the quality of life in our communities by breaking the cycle of sustained criminality.”

Cllr Mark Blake, Cabinet Member for Communities for Haringey, said: “I welcome this initiative to engage with young people and provide support at such a critical moment following an arrest. I also welcome any opportunity to divert young people away from crime and reoffending, especially those in transitional age groups between 10 and 18-years-old.

“It is critical that there is a joined up approach across all services to ensure that any of our vulnerable youngsters are given an opportunity to move away from this lifestyle and engage in positive activities such as those offered through our Children’s and Young People Service, Haringey Community Gold and the many other interventions offered to young people through our Young People at Risk strategy.”

If you are worried that a family member or friend is involved in criminality, or might be being exploited or groomed by others, help and advice is available via Knife Free: https://www.knifefree.co.uk/get-help-support/ and NSPCC: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/gangs-criminal-exploitation/