Wirral workshops deter young people from crime

By Claire HamiltonPolitical reporter, BBC Radio Merseyside

BBC Kathy GillBBC
Kathy Gill works for the Wirral Youth Justice Service

An intervention programme which aims to deter young people from crime is working, a council has said.

Wirral’s Youth Justice Service runs workshops for school pupils, educating them about County Lines, cyber safety or the age of criminal responsibility,

There was a 26.6% drop in young people in Wirral entering the justice system between 2021 and 2022, data published in the service’s annual plan showed.

This was the highest reduction on Merseyside.

The data also showed there had been a small cut in re-offending rates, noting: “Significantly the number of offences committed by re-offenders reduced from 166 to 98, inferring a decreased volume impact of youth related crime on the community and victims.”

Wirral Council is attributing that fall to the preventative projects run by Wirral Youth Justice Service.

Kathy Gill, from the service, said: “A lot of young people don’t know the age of criminal responsibility for example, so they might not even know what they are doing is illegal or that they could get a criminal record for it.”

Two of the projects, called In The Zone and Operation Inclusion, focus on raising awareness of the criminal justice system, and the choices young people may have to make.

In The Zone delivers prevention and information sessions to Year 9 students, using board games as part of the sessions.

One pupil from Prenton High School, who took part, said: “It’s really important to learn this stuff.

“We’ve learned things like how to help people if they’ve been drunk or even stabbed.”

Another pupil added: “It can seem all a bit much when you hear things on the news.

“Having it presented in this manner, with board games, helps us relax and retain the information too”.

Crime board game
Board games are used as part of the sessions

One of the main focuses of the sessions is county lines, where drug gangs often using violence and intimidation to exploit children and vulnerable people to sell drugs.

Ms Gill said “County lines affects young people.

“It starts with a friendship for example, so in the sessions we run it could be looking at cyber safety, that’s where a lot of those friendships begin.”

More than 4,000 young people have taken part in these sessions since the project launched.

Operation Inclusion is a 12-week programme, working with young people who are already known to the Youth Justice Service and their families to reduce offending behaviour and address the underlying issues.

Funded through the Violent Reduction Partnership the programme, initially piloted in Wirral has been rolled out across Merseyside.

In the last year, the Youth Justice team have worked with a number of young people under Operation Inclusion and to date none of the young people have gone on to re-offend.

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