BY LOUISE CONVERY
SEVENTEEN young people from the Cookstown area have graduated from a scheme that aims to improve the PSNI’s youth relations.
This was the latest in a series of Choices Schemes, others having taken place in Enniskillen, Aughnacloy, Omagh, Coagh. The Cookstown Choices Team that developed the programme have previously received a ‘Policing in the Community’ award in 2010.
The scheme aims to help young people from the area understand that there are consequences to the choices they make in society and to build relationships between young people and the police.
The scheme ran from Monday to Friday 22-26 August and introduced the young people to the skills required to be a police officer and allowed them to experience ‘hands-on’ policing. Some of the activities in which the young people were involved with included; radio skills, crime scene investigation, roads policing, first aid, police boats and physical competency testing. All the young people were presented with a detailed portfolio of all their achievements.
Neighbourhood officers acted as mentors for the young people throughout the week and assessed them in each of the activities which meant young people were able to build positive and trusting relationships with the officers.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Superintendent Alywin Barton said: “‘F’ district is very enthusiastic about the impact the Choices programme has on the evolvement of young people and their contribution to their own areas,” he said.
“The young people completing this programme are able to see what affect actions can have on others, how they can adjust their approach and how they can become peer role models for others.”
Commenting on the success of the scheme, the Superintendent added, “An evaluation of the programme has provided evidence of reductions in anti-social behaviour and referrals of young people to the Youth Justice system, this has to be welcomed and congratulated.”
Det Supt Wendy Middleton of C1 Organised Crime Branch said: “The Choices Programme is a great example of what can be achieved with young people engaging with the police service in an informal setting. This has become a very successful programme which has challenged perceptions, improved relationships and communities all with the money that the PSNI have removed from the most determined and serious organised crime groups operating in Northern Ireland.”