Rising number of police in Norfolk’s schools

Full-time police officers are becoming a common sight in a growing number of Norfolk high schools as they seek new ways to root out criminal behaviour before it develops, the EDP can reveal.

Police constables and police community support officers (PCSOs) are now based in more than 20 schools, where they are becoming as familiar sights as heads and teachers.

And the move is working, with the schools reported to be 'calmer, safer places', bullying incidents dropping, and fewer crimes being reported.

Despite the public services cash squeeze, Norfolk Constabulary is so pleased with the results of the Safer Schools Partnerships (SSPs) that it wants a police officer or PCSO in every high school in the next few years.

Sgt Tim Horrobin, safer schools partnerships sergeant in Norfolk, said: 'There's real value in this. It is the initiative that delivers best.'

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He added: 'We solve so many grassroots problems by being in the schools. If we can iron out issues in schools, wee are not going to get problems later on.

'Through this, we are getting less criminalisation of young people. They can learn from their mistakes.'

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And he said: 'I have talked to school staff, students and police officers, and they have told me that schools in the SSP are calmer, safer places.

'The number of insurance claims being made has reduced, which means fewer crimes and smaller premiums for schools.

'Because of the calmer atmosphere, there is the chance to deliver better teaching and learning. There are also fewer incidents of bullying.'

SSPs were piloted by the Metropolitan Police in 2004. Norfolk Police piloted its own scheme in 2006 when it set up SSPs.

The Norfolk SSPs were reviewed in 2008, and again at the beginning of 2010.

Sgt Horrobin said: 'I became involved with the strategic review at the beginning of last year and the constabulary was able to say it wanted to offer SSPs to all secondary schools in the county.

'We've got 40pc sign-up at the moment. We've looked at the relative needs of the schools. There's a top tier of schools that have full-time officers.

'Below that top tier there's a sliding scale depending on relative need and what we can provide.'

A freedom of information request found there were 713 crimes recorded at Norfolk schools in 2009-10 - although the figures are not reliable because of the different way that schools deal with offences.

Some take a hard line by reporting lower level crime to the police, while others prefer to keep discipline in-house and many offences are therefore never recorded officially.

The accompanying breakdown of the nature of the crimes does, though, give an indication of how challenging it can be in some schools.

For example, there were 55 assaults causing actual bodily harm, 17 sexual offences, four of possessing a knife, nine of drug possession and almost 200 offences of criminal damage.

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