Wealden Police have won an award for their response to anti-social behaviour in Uckfield.
They say their work has led to a significant drop in offending by young people and a noticeable reduction in anti-social behaviour in some of the ‘hot-spot areas’ within Uckfield.
Operation Asteroid, the name chosen by Wealden Neighbourhood Policing team for their response, included identifying a group of young people involved in crime and anti-social behaviour, and potentially at risk of criminal exploitation.
The young people were then subject to several months of focused engagement.
Two police constables, Emily Dudley and Sarah Poplett, carried out regular visits, sometimes with workers from Children’s Services, to establish ways they could help in reducing the young person’s involvement in crime or anti-social behaviour.
PC Dudley said: “Since we started that dedicated approach, we now have better relationships with the young people and they seem to have more respect for us and understand that we are there to not only help them, but also safeguard them.
“They do still understand that we are police officers and that we will still enforce the law when they break it. This has helped some of them change their views of the police and the fact that they have got to know us has meant they are more willing to speak to us. This has helped with our understanding of behaviours at individual and group level.”
The regular engagement has also enabled police and colleagues to signpost and refer the young people to diversionary activity such as Wealden Works, a scheme offering training and employment for young people not in education, employment or training.
Operation Asteroid was chosen as the winner of the Neighbourhoods category of the 2020/21 Tilley Awards, set up by the Home Office to celebrate successful problem-orientated projects.
The award-winning approach centred around a community-wide assessment carried out by East Sussex County Council’s Children’s Services team which identified issues and explored ways in which partners in the community could play a role in addressing them.
The assessment followed collaboration, between police, the county council, town council, and Chamber of Commerce, among others, which resulted in the reopening of Uckfield Youth Club in April 2019.
Police said that while that work addressed some of the issues in the Uckfield area, there remained continuing challenges with a small number of young people.
East Sussex Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Tanya Jones said: “Operation Asteroid is a fantastic example of ways in which police can work with partners to address an issue that is affecting our community, with successful results.
“The problem-solving approach adopted by officers and youth workers took into account the other issues often faced by young people involved in and at risk of crime.
“It acknowledges that enforcement isn’t always the most effective option and looks to work with the young people to safeguard them and divert them away from crime.
“The work has helped improve trust and confidence in the local policing team, particularly among young people, and I’m incredibly proud of the officers involved for their dedication and hard work on the project.”
Cllr Sylvia Tidy, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for children and families, said: “This is a well-deserved award which recognises the amount of work Wealden Police and council staff put into addressing the issues in Uckfield and surrounding areas.
“More often than not anti-social behaviour is seen as an issue for the police to address, but the response to the problems in Uckfield show just how important it is to work as a partnership and a community to uncover the reasons behind the behaviour and look at the role each part of that community can play to change things.
“The Contextual Safeguarding Assessment is huge undertaking, but was vital in guiding the community’s approach and our Children’s Services team can be extremely proud of their contribution.”
As a result of winning the award, Sussex Police have been invited to present Operation Asteroid at the National Problem Solving Conference in September 2021. There, the overall winner of the 2020/21 Tilley Awards will be announced.