New Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner inspired by visit to Weston College
By YouPR | Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 17:19
Avon and Somerset's new Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, was inspired by a group of Weston College students trying to strike up a better relationship between young people and the police.
Mrs Mountstevens, who was elected last November, visited the College on Tuesday January 15 to listen to the results of a specially-commissioned survey into attitudes towards policing and crime, and to address concerns and questions posed by students.
The visit was organised by Weston College in conjunction with the SHM Foundation Political Academy's 'Force Forward' campaign, that aims to foster a better relationship between young people and the police.
The Force Forward survey, conducted in the Avon and Somerset, Leicestershire and West Yorkshire areas, was unveiled at Weston College at the meeting. Priorities for young people in Avon and Somerset included a better police presence, the tackling of drug crime, a stronger emphasis on better relations between young people and officers, a drive to stop stereotyping and greater efficiency.
Drug-related crime and violence was a particular priority for Weston students, who told Mrs Mountstevens that fear of crime was strong.
She told the gathering of around 30 students and lecturers: "I am here to listen to you and it is important for me to engage with you. I can only do that if you engage with me, and while I can't change everything I can make sure I have a very good try.
"If people listen to young people more carefully, rather than making judgements, I think that between us we can make a real difference."
The meeting also laid the foundations of a police 'youth advisory panel' that Mrs Mountstevens is keen to set up. This will involve students from Weston College, as well as from other colleges in the area.
Students came up with ideas for improving relations between young people and officers, including the setting up of social events, and asked about potential recruitment opportunities within the force. There was a call made for police to treat young people with more respect, especially when they felt the need to stop them and ask questions. The students also called for more police visibility in areas where they felt vulnerable, especially at night.
Thanking students for their efforts, Mrs Mountstevens said: "It is my job to listen and what I have heard has been very inspiring. This is the reason that I became PCC."
Weston College student Paul Greasley, studying for an Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care, said: "There is an opportunity here to make a real difference and we all should grasp that opportunity. It is time to change how young people feel about the police, and vice versa, and this meeting feels like the first step."
Rose Dowling, Director of the SHM Foundation Political Academy, said: "There is a real willingness here at Weston College to get involved and in that respect this has been an important meeting because the relationship has already been established. I hope we can build on that positively, and help to make real changes."
Tim Yeandle, Weston College's Strategic Lead for Student Services, said: "We were very proud to co-organise and host this prestigious event. Our students were extremely well prepared and raised some highly pertinent issues relevant to them as individuals and the community as a whole. It was an excellent opportunity for our young people to influence policing in the future by voicing their views directly to the Commissioner and, significantly, playing a part in formulating the agenda for the proposed Police and Crime Commissioner Youth Advisory Panel."