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Sunday, 11 October 2009

On the Henbury beat with the police


Last Friday between 5.30pm and 1am, I joined the local police as they were out patrolling Henbury - and the notorious Crow Lane. I was wanting to see the youth crime problem from the other side- from the perspective of the police. I followed Sgt. Terry Scoble who explained their Zero Tolerance policing policy for parts of Henbury. To be honest, I was expecting riots on the streets, but on the night I was out the place was remarkably deserted.

As we drove round, meeting and dealing with small clusters of varyingly nuisance young people, one thing struck me: It was Friday night, and the only facility open for young people was... not the Youth Club. Despite reassurances that it would be open on Friday night, the youth club was closed. What about the Youth Bus? The Youth Bus seemed no where to be found. The only place open for young people was the voluntary organisation - where no one was paid to be there- it was Emmanuel Chapel.

For me that spoke volumes, and took me back to David Camerons' conference speech, and what he said about liberating communities from an over-bearing and inefficient state. So often, the best way the state can help the community is to channel all its support and resources into helping other organisations, real, organic, community organisations, do the work.

it was a fascinating and valuable experience coming out with the police. I'd like to thank Sgt. Terry Scoble and his team for being so accommodating, and providing such an informative and educational evening.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm a local council-employed youth worker facing redundancy due to cuts. I cannot begin to tell you how insulting I find your attitude towards council-funded services, when we have worked so hard to help improve things for young people in the area. The youth centre IS normally open on a Friday night, so this photo opportunity snapshot of 'notorious' Crow Lane is inaccurate.

The community you represent are very concerned about losing existing council services run by dedicated professionals, who are qualified and trained to help those young people who exhibit the most challenging behaviour. You truly misunderstand the nature of the work we do and I find that hugely disheartening.

Charlotte Leslie said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment. If you notice, the date of the post was 2009. At that point, Crow Lane had hit the mainstream press because of youth crime; a Labour Minister had implied everything was just rosy, when it evidently wasn't, and the community was really, genuinely worried. It would have been wrong not to present that very real concern. We held a public meeting on youth crime, as the public were so worried and felt no one was listening and authority was dismissing their fears. ( We also noted at that meeting that it is only a minority of young people invovled in this kind of behaviour, and that most young people play a very positive role in society.) Since then, we saw a real focus from police, the Council, dedicated workers like yourself , community groups all working together. The fact was, on that night, things were as I described. And many people expressed their despair that this was not unusal, and expressed their despair that no one seemed to be listening, or to say things weren't right was in some way 'taboo'. I am delighted things have improved so much in Henbury, it is testament to the hard work and focus of many, and people like you of course deserve full credit. I also do not agree with Councils who cut front line services first, without taking a very hard look at streamlining their back-room costs. I believe that youth services should be a real priority as they save so much money in the long-term, but I also think this does not mean that we shouldn't look very carefully at how public money is best spent in youth provision.