A fresh approach to tackling crime has been launched – and could be rolled out across Sussex.
The problem-solving pilot scheme went live in Newhaven, East Sussex, this week.
Organised by Lewes district police commander Inspector Ed Ripley and supported by other professionals, it is the first of its kind in Sussex.
Working out of Saxon House in Newhaven, the multi-agency team comprises of police community support officers, Neighbourhood First and housing team members from Lewes District Council, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, the Sussex Community Development Association and Target Youth Support youth outreach team and the domestic abuse Rita Project.
Insp Ripley said: “It is a really exciting scheme. It is the first time that all of the agencies have been brought together to deploy and work together.
“A lot of work goes into the development of something like this.
“It is not a case of bringing agencies to meet and then they go off and do their own separate thing.”
This newspaper was invited on patrol with the new team on Thursday, August 8, and was given an insight into how the scheme aims to tackle the problems of youth crime, anti-social behaviour, motorcycle theft and drugs in Newhaven.
Speaking at the new skate park and pump track in the town – a known crime hot spot in the evenings – Mr Ripley said: “So today, we are out with Neighbourhood First, we have got SCDA youth work and outreach workers with us as well.
“And we have targeted youth services and we can also provide housing services and advice around domestic abuse.
“The skate park is a superb facility that has just been put in by the local council and it also attracts a lot of kids.
"It is unfortunate that some of our local kids have caused a few problems there which is why we are patrolling there at the moment.”
Insp Ripley said the next step was ‘to get a feel for how the team is going to work and how it is going to develop’.
“We need to allow the team to evolve and we need to be able to respond to some of the demands in the area,” he said.
“But, for me the next major step is utilising the facilities within the community. It is getting the community involved in that process and get the community to become part of the team.”
He continued: “Officers will identify hot spots around Newhaven and problem-solve those locations, with partners, where the presence and behaviour of some young people impact on the community.
“Influences such as housing and domestic situations will also be addressed.
“Monday briefings will review the team’s activities and set targets for the next seven days. If successful, we hope to create similar teams elsewhere in Lewes district and further afield.”
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne joined Insp Ripley and the team on patrol.
She commented: “It is really exciting. It means the team can find the right solution to the problem.
“For me, while the police have the enforcement powers, it is often that if a young person is causing anti-social behaviour there is a related problem.
“You don’t want to criminalise them at a young age, so there are other solutions such as our REBOOT programme, or it might be a housing problem.”
Mrs Bourne spoke to residents while out on patrol. She said: “Speaking to residents in Newhaven, they were not surprised that young people ‘act out’, stating that they’re ‘bored’ and influenced by older members of their peer groups to ‘run amok.’
“This is why, as part of REBOOT, I have given funds to community safety partnerships to invest in youth projects and clubs keeping young people off the streets and out of trouble.
“The team has also made referrals into REBOOT, identifying young people who need early intervention to prevent them getting involved in criminality.
“Sophie (not her real name), 14, was identified by police as having nine risk factors, including smoking cannabis, exclusions from school and ‘hanging out’ with an older group causing ASB.
“She was assigned a REBOOT coach, and since then has not been associated with criminal behaviour. She has started kickboxing classes and plans to join a local youth club soon.
“The reality is that young people can be vulnerable to exploitation and REBOOT is working to minimise the risk of their involvement in ASB, knife crime or drug-related crime.”
In one of the most recent serious crime incidents in Newhaven a man in his 30s was walking along Fort Road, when he was approached and attacked by a group of people, suffering a minor stab wound.
At the time, Insp Ripley vowed police would be relentless in their attempts to rid Newhaven of the problem. But he added parental involvement was also key to a long-term solution.
Christopher Marchant, a police community officer, said Newhaven being a ‘deprived’ town that has not had as much investment as other towns was why people treat it badly.
He said the skate park and pump track, McDonald’s, the town centre and multi-storey car park were crime hot spots in the town.
“I wouldn’t say Newhaven has any more problems than any other place – it is just more deprived,” he said.
“We have a hardcore group of kids here that are stealing motorbikes and committing anti-social behaviour.
“But quite often we will take a child home and when we look at their home life – it can be heartbreaking, and we realise that they need more help.
“The problem is more than the police just telling them off. The police don’t want to criminalise children.”
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Incident Commander Tony McCord said: “This is what we need to be doing as you can’t do these things in isolation.
“What the fire service has done in the past is we have worked with youths on specific courses. Unfortunately these ceased due to funding, but what we can bring to the party now is engagement activities with young people looking at team building, physical exercise and confidence building.”
Mum-of-four Claudia Grandi travelled from Eastbourne to Newhaven so her children could use the new skate park and pump track.
“I think it is great – it builds up the community between the kids and it is something for them to do,” she said.
“It is free and there is no pressure on who’s got what and who hasn’t with the kids. I think it is a really good idea for them – we definitely need this in Eastbourne.”