Fifteen secondary school students were “sworn in” as detectives by Merseyside Police this week as part of a project designed to help young people make the right decisions in the future and equip them to recognise the signs of criminal exploitation.
The Serious Organised Crime Insight Programme has been developed as part of an educational initiative jointly funded by Merseyside Police and Everton in the Community (EitC), the official charity of Everton Football Club. The scheme involves students from Years 9, 10 and 11 from schools in communities where young people are vulnerable to criminal exploitation and will kick-start a series of early intervention programmes across Merseyside, delivered by EitC.
The programme has been designed to raise awareness of criminal exploitation and to demonstrate to young people how they can be manipulated by those causing misery in some of our poorest communities through criminality and violence.
The young people were sworn in at the beginning of the week and were then given their own fictional criminal case (put together by experienced detectives) to investigate. The scenario they were given revolved around the stabbing of a 14-year-old boy and shows the impact the crime has on the victim’s family and friends, as well as the local community and health professionals.
During the week the trainee detectives learned the principle standards of investigation and the importance of working as a team. They were given opportunities to interview the victim, his mother and friends at the force’s training centre and also visited Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where they were able to visit the specialist Rainbow Suite where medical professionals provide care for victims of trauma, such as knife crime. Nurse Clinician Rob Jackson from the Royal Liverpool University Hospital also gave the young people an open and frank talk about the knife crime injuries he has seen and operated on during his career and the life changing impact those injuries can have.
The first three days of investigation were followed up by a visit to Liverpool Crown Court where they were given a tour of the courts and introduced to His Honour Judge Neil Flewitt who gave them an introduction to the Criminal Justice System and talked them through court procedures. He then presided over the cross examination of the suspect in their case, who had pleaded guilty to the assault of the 14-year-old.
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: “Child Criminal Exploitation is a rapidly emerging issue which is now recognised at a local, regional and national level as a major concern for our communities.
“We know that children as young as 10 or 11 are being groomed to enter gangs and commit crime on behalf of older criminals. That’s why we need to reach out to young people to help them to identify the warning signs of exploitation and equip them with the understanding, knowledge and skills to ensure they make better life choices.
“I have no doubt this scheme will have opened the eyes of the young people involved and given them a real insight into the potential dangers and repercussions of getting drawn into crime from a young age. Well done to everyone at Merseyside Police and Everton in the Community who helped to put this impressive initiative together and thanks to all those who took part.”
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Reardon, said: “This programme has been developed to give young people an insight into the impact of criminality and violence on our communities. During the week they have been able to undertake their own criminal investigation and throughout their journey they have seen first-hand how the wrong decisions can have a major impact not only on the life of a victim, or offender, but also on their families, close friends and the local community. They have also been able to learn about criminal exploitation and how calculating criminals can target and manipulate young people and entice them into a life of crime and violence. One of the students on the course was so impressed by the presentation given to them on county lines and criminal exploitation that they are going to ask the teachers at their school if it could be done there so the message can be distributed wider.
“The aim of this week is to equip our young people with the ability to make the right lifestyle choices, which keep them, their families, and their local community safe. Our ultimate aim is to show young people there are other choices they can make that are within the law and without the dangers that come through becoming involved with organised crime groups.”
Sue Gregory, Director of Youth Engagement for Everton in the Community, said: “This programme has been a great opportunity to provide some of our young people with an insight into serious community issues within our city. This trainee detective programme, that has been developed by Merseyside Police, illustrates a big problem in our city with serious organised crime, gangs and young people being exploited.
“We have worked closely with Merseyside Police for over 10 years in tackling these issues and we look forward to continuing this relationship to further develop our early intervention programmes to support and protect those at risk.”
We are strong believers that if you can keep children engaged in education, have positive community activities available, and be there to offer support in key crisis points in their lives then this will enable us to raise aspirations among our community and allow our young people to flourish into adult life.”