THE Crossroads programme, now in its second year, has been described as “another successful year” by Downpatrick-based Neighbourhood Policing Sergeant John McKenna.
Crossroads is a summer programme which ran for one week and took 12 young people from Downpatrick and 10 from the Newcastle area and gave them the opportunity to see what life was like in the PSNI.
Sergeant McKenna said, “It’s all about breaking down barriers within our community between the youth and the police. We ran this programme last year and were supported by the Down District Community Safety Partnership and the Youth Justice Agency. We were lucky enough to once again receive funding for this year.
“This is a great way for young people who may have faced issues in their community to come into contact with the police and work with the officers for a whole week. It was really the brainchild of Area Commander Deirdre Bones and is also very beneficial for the officers to participate in too.
“The young people all thoroughly enjoyed this experience and they all have said they would like to come back and engage again. It has been a very positive experience for them. The rapport the local neighbourhood officers had with the youngsters was excellent. We intend to follow up on this in the future.
“Through the week they engaged in a number of core activities each day working closely with our officers. There was CSI training (Crime Scene Investigation) which they found very interesting. The role played the scene of a robbery and other scenarios. The following day they did radio training and learned how we operate on the air. They actually played the role of police officers responding to various situations which they really enjoyed doing.
“On one of the days they were all dressed up in full public order riot control dress and learned all about crowd control and safety. They were even able to throw things at the police which they had great fun doing! There were also a number of talks given. The Mourne Mountain Rescue team explained their role in mountain rescue and the young people got into the stretchers to see first hand what it was like to be carried about in them.
“And there was an alcohol awareness session with ASSERT which they also found interesting. And there was a session too by the Prison Service who explained what it is like to be in prison… the size of the cells, the food they eat, the type of clothes they wear, prison activities, and the basic loss of their freedom.
“This programme was a really stimulating and worthwhile week for them and they all got a huge amount from it. In the morning they were picked up and left home again safely in the evening. We certainly hope to run this programme again next year. It has been a real success.
The Chairman of the Down District Community Safety Partnership Councillor William Dick said, “The partnerships have been very supported with this programme where young people get the opportunity to experience the work of our police officers carrying out their duties. We hope they will learn from the real life scenarios and use the experience in their everyday lives. The DPP is fully committed in working with our partner agencies in delivering programmes to reduce criminality.
Also, Councillor Mickey Coogan, Chairperson Down District Community Safety Partnership said, “The community safety partnership included this programme in their action plan for 2011/2012 as part of their objective to reduce anti social behaviour within local communities.
“Engaging directly with young people and showing them real life situations throughout the week will hopefully help them make decisions about their behaviour and the implications on the whole community. Young people working directly with our policing neighbourhood teams will assist in developing a new and better society involving young people in the process for change.”