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Tuesday, 26 June 2012
How we are winning war on school crime
South London Press
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
By Ben Morgan
POLICE are winning the war on school-related crime in South London, according to new figures.
The number of crimes taking place in schools has been reduced over the past three years in the boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.
However, girls are far more likely to be the victims of crime compared with boys, as police continue to battle against gang culture.
Figures released under Freedom of Information laws show that between March 2009 and March 2012, there were a total of 1,287 reported crimes taking place on school premises or outside the gates.
Lewisham is the only borough of the three that has seen a slight rise in the number of reported crimes between 2011 and 2012.
Lambeth police’s safer schools partnership and youth engagement officer Sergeant Graham Norman said the borough’s number one priority was tackling youth crime.
He said: “Schools can be enormous crime generators – especially for antisocial behaviour and petty crime.
“The Lambeth safer schools team work in partnership with schools, and when there is an incident, my officers work with them to see how it is dealt with.”
Sgt Norman said restorative justice – where victim and perpetrator and their parents get together and talk about what has happened – was an effective way of reducing repeat offences.
However, police across South London also face the problem of social network websites such as Twitter and Facebook and video-sharing sites like YouTube fuelling petty arguments and gang-related incidents.
Sgt Norman said: “One comment on the internet or on Blackberry Messenger can escalate into a GBH. These networks have had a huge impact and is a big emerging problem.”
Also reflected in the figures are the relatively low number of arrests resulting from crimes.
The figures show that across the three boroughs only 15 males were arrested on school premises in the past three years.
Figures for female arrests were not available.
National Union of Teachers regional spokesman Bob Stapley said that schools often try to deal with incidents themselves.
Assaults on staff do not always result in a call to the police, but can be dealt with by excluding the pupils as a last resort.
Mr Stapley said: “Generally schools are very orderly places, if you compare these figures with the number of children actually in the schools. When incidents do happen, they tend to be extremely serious and we expect them to be dealt with.
“But we have to remember that teachers want to improve the life chances of pupils, so they are not overly enthusiastic about exclusion or bringing in the police.”
Councillor Richard Livingstone, Southwark’s cabinet member for community safety, said police and community wardens visited schools to give presentations on personal safety.
Advice on property-marking phones is also provided.
He said: “In addition to this, the police have dedicated schools officers throughout the borough and have conducted weapons sweeps outside of schools to combat against weapon-related violence.”
Cllr Livingstone added: “As part of our Sher project, we have developed a training and educational toolkit aimed at secondary schools to promote awareness of healthy relationships and combat domestic and dating abuse.”