The success of a Tyneside community in cutting crime and anti-social behaviour is in line to be recognised with a prestigious national award.
Northumbria Police nominated the work of its Community Support Officer Andrea Fryer and The Blakelaw Ward Community Partnership for a Howard League for Penal Reform Community Award.
The project has made the final short-list in the Policing and Children category and this week Andrea and Leanne Risk, the Partnership’s Children and Young Person’s Lead Practitioner, will attend the London award ceremony to find out if they have won.
Nick Brown, chair of The Blakelaw Ward Community Partnership, said: “This is a fitting recognition of the hard work of a team of very dedicated people.”
Three years ago there was a high level of damage and anti-social behaviour in the area and Northumbria Police tackled it with a high-profile 12 months campaign called Operation Whistler.
The dramatic improvement since then has coincided with the creation of The Blakelaw Ward Community Partnership which provides a range of services. These include youth clubs and other activities for young people, a library, shop and the UK’s first community post office, which opened earlier this year.
“It’s marvellous for me to come to the Blakelaw Centre and see kids – who I know have been involved in crime outside – helping out,” said Andrea, who in March was awarded a Northumbria Police Pride in Policing Award for her work in Blakelaw.
Teenagers who, for example, have been responsible for criminal damage and graffiti have voluntarily carried out repairs.
“We’re getting them at the right time because they would have become the next generation of trouble-makers. Up until now there’s not been an opportunity to engage with them,” said Andrea.
“Although I have had opportunities to work in a different area, I am dedicated to Blakelaw and feel very much a part of the community.” she added.
Leanne, who heads a small team of part-time staff, an apprentice and volunteers, said attitudes had changed: “Young people now realise that everybody’s working together for them – not against them.
“They respect the activities we’re providing and the negative behaviour has reduced. They’ve now got somewhere to come and somebody to talk to.”
She added: “The younger ones now see the older ones as role models. In the past some of them would not have been role models. They would have been associated on the estate with anti-social behaviour. But now they’re coming in, giving up their time and running a sports activity for 10 six-year-olds for free.”
The Howard League for Penal Reform, which this year is celebrating its 150th birthday, said its awards “champion work in the community that challenges and changes people for the better” and it believes projects which help keep people out of the criminal justice system reduce the risk of re-offending.