Police figures reveal rise in acts of violence in Norfolk’s schools and colleges
- Credit: Archant
Acts of violence in Norfolk's schools are on the rise, new figures have revealed.
Norfolk Police data shows that reports of 'violence against the person' offences at educational premises have increased by almost a quarter (24pc) in the past three years, with 426 reported in the county in 2018.
This represents almost half of all crimes recorded at educational premises last year, which totalled 901 – a slight fall from the 916 reported in 2017.
Meanwhile public order offences – usually referring to a threat of violence or harassment – shot up by 75pc between 2016 and 2018.
The figures, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, have prompted calls for a greater focus on educating young people about crimes and supporting those most at risk of falling into criminal activity – but Norfolk Police has defended its actions to support students and their families.
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Great Yarmouth county councillor Mike Smith-Clare believes cuts to youth services – which have been credited with supporting vulnerable youngsters most at risk of falling into criminal behaviour – and squeezed school budgets could be influencing the rise in schools-based crime.
He said: 'As a teacher and parent I am acutely aware of the possible threats to the safety of local children and young people. Understandably these fears have become heightened recently with the extensive coverage of knife crime, tragic fatal attacks and the establishing of a county lines drugs network.
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'Many young people, particularly the most vulnerable, are at risk of these threats – and it is no surprise that they require the greatest amount of support, mentoring and guidance.
'Education is essential in helping young people make the right decisions – both within school and community settings. It is proven that peer training works and that youth clubs and family-led projects have the most significant long term impact, yet it is these initiatives that are being cut or losing their funding.'
Eight years ago Norfolk Police had police constables and police community support officers (PCSOs) based in more than 20 schools in the county as part of the Safer Schools Partnership (SSP) scheme.
Despite the success of the measure, which proved an effective deterrent against bullying and crimes, it was scrapped under the constabulary's Norfolk 2020 plan along with PCSOs.
'The kids were very shocked and upset'
While it is not as headline-grabbing as some crimes criminal damage can have a devastating impact on schools, many of which have little spare cash to pick up the pieces after an incident.
Catton Grove Primary School in Norwich fell victim to arsonists in 2017 following a spate of similar attacks in the Mile Cross area.
Two boys, aged 14 and 15, were ordered to pay compensation for the incident in which 10 commercial bins were set on fire, causing between £5,000 and £10,000 worth of damage.
Headteacher Tim Lawes said: 'It is rare for us to have any crime that is associated with the school because it is very much a part of the community. The message we give to our children is that this is your school so don't mess with it because it belongs to all of us.
'When that particular thing happened the kids were very shocked and upset about it. But they were delighted that the boys who did it had to compensate the school.'
Rise could be sign of better recording and partnership success, inspector says
Insp Bex Brown, of Norfolk's Safer Schools Partnership (SSP), said the increase in crimes at schools and colleges could be a sign of improved reporting rather than a rise in offences.
She said it could be evidence of greater consistency in recording crimes, victims feeling more able to come forward and of a 'successful relationship' between students, teachers, parents and carers and SSP officers.
The SSP delivers early intervention, prevention and support to young people and their families.
It aims to reduce anti-social behaviour and incidents of crime in and around schools by educating and supporting children and young people to make informed decisions about their actions and safety.
Insp Brown said: 'This has a positive impact not only on the pupils themselves but also on local people in that area.'
She added that officers also give regular presentations to secondary school pupils to raise awareness of issues such as knife crime, healthy relationships and sexting, county lines drug dealing, domestic abuse and online safety.