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PC Jason Hill lights the way in collaborative approach to crime

When it comes to working with people caught up in crime, ‘collaboration’ and ‘multi-agency approach’ are modern buzz words. PC Jason Hill’s Salisbury Hall Friday Night project embodies these philosophies perfectly.

Jason is the Metropolitan Police’s Youth Engagement Coordinator for the North East Sector, running his own football-based Friday night project with at-risk young people but also supporting a further 14 projects in his own Boroughs of Newham and Waltham Forest which encompass over 2000 young people. Participants travel from across London to attend.

Young people who have been through, or are on the fringes of the custodial system, are referred to the projects by external agencies such as PRUs, schools or social services. The projects include football, cricket (in partnership with Surrey, Middlesex and Essex CCCs), dance, bike building and maintenance, mental health, theatre, rap and grime music sessions (with rapper Lemz) and gardening.

Jason’s own Salisbury Hall Friday Night Project in Waltham Forest began with six participants and now delivers to around 100 per week (there are nearly 800 registered), who flock from all over London.

“IT’S A MASSIVE SCOPE”

“Basically, I work with the kids that nobody else wants, or they find too difficult to handle,” says Jason. “These young people have lived experience of everything from murder to sex offences, and come from the most impoverished backgrounds. But we’ve got privately educated kids who want to be lawyers too. It’s a massive scope.

“On Friday nights, they all come together and play football. They are now starting to find each other on other nights and play football against each other on the estates. That proves the impact. At the top end of the scale, we’ve got kids into Crystal Palace and Peterborough United.”

All projects under Jason’s remit are devised to meet local need and are formed through multiple referral and delivery partners. Outcomes include raising ambitions through apprenticeships, coaching qualifications or onward referrals to organisations such as the Police Cadets. Anti-social behaviour has dropped 6.6% in the areas where projects take place.

The project is even supported by Team England, who have donated over 100 items of kit from the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast last April. Basketball players Orlan Jackman and long jumper Dan Bramble have been along to see the project in action.

“PARTNERSHIP IS THE ONLY WAY”

Jason (pictured below) is now trying to bring together police officers from other areas of London to share best practice. “We cannot simply arrest our way out of the current situation,” he says. “A multi-agency, partnership approach is the only way.

“I’m a police officer, so there’s an instant integrity there; there’s no political or financial gain. It’s purely about linking everybody together. The other day, we had a meeting with 27 people around the table. Someone asked, how do you do that? It’s because I’m the police and can act as that focal point to bring people together. You’ve got to work as a collective.”

One key component of that collective is the Youth Independent Advisory Group (YIAG), which consists of former young offenders, youth workers, victims of crime and characters such as Jamal, an international award-winning spoken-word poet who was in prison for five years. Their voices are as important as any in finding out the best ways to connect with local young people.

Jason and his partner Chris Hodge, from Alpha Sports Coaching, have cumulatively more than 55 years’ experience in Sport for Development work with young people. Their expertise in engaging young people is unsurpassed.

“It’s about building up a rapport and trust,” he reflects. “Myself and other police officers visit the projects and the young people don’t even bat an eyelid now when they see the police uniform. The officers just get involved and start chatting to young people. That’s what we’re trying to work towards, breaking those barriers down.”

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