Criminals' cash invested into prevent programme across Manchester schools
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Our City of Manchester South division has invested money recovered from criminals' ill-gotten gains into funding a pioneering programme deterring the city's young people from a life of crime.
The GetAway'N'GetSafe (GANGS) charity, renowned for its work over the last six years in schools in Merseyside and West Yorkshire, is one of the dozens of projects across Greater Manchester paid for by financial assets seized from criminals and won by GMP through Proceeds of Crime last year - such as the near-£2million granted at a forfeiture hearing in July.
Ran by James Riley, a probation officer for nearly two decades in Merseyside, the programme is to be rolled out across 20 schools in south Manchester over the next six months and delivers early intervention for young people to educate them of the dangers and consequences of drugs, exploitation, gangs and anti-social behaviour.
It consists of a week's worth of interactive and thought-provoking presentations about being involved in youth crime that highlight the negative impact it can have on themselves, their family and their friends, with an emphasis on going down the right path and not repeating bad decisions.
The programme has been highly-regarded by schools James has previously visited, and has already gained positive feedback from pupils and teachers visited so far in the Wythenshawe area this week (commencing Monday 20 September).
Research is also being conducted by the Manchester Metropolitan University's Department of Sociology into how the programme can broaden perceptions on safety, the police and 'joint-enterprise' activity, with children asked to fill out a questionnaire at the start and end of the series.
The work is the latest part of our multi-faceted approach to engaging with the public, and particularly young communities, and promoting safer streets across Greater Manchester.
Inspector Sarah O'Driscoll, whose successful bid brought GetAway'N'GetSafe to Manchester, said: "It's really important that we use criminals' money in this way to invest in the next generation and ensure that they do not follow down the same bad path and make the wrong decisions that lead to a life of crime.
"While making arrests and locking people up are part of our way of tackling gang crime in Manchester, the best thing we can do is intervene and speak to young people from an early stage to get them to understand the consequences of making bad decisions at a young age.
"I've known about James' project and have been keen to bring it to our city on a longer-term basis, as intervention work like this is such a vital tool in what we are trying to achieve by making the streets of Manchester a safer place.
"Also by having Manchester Met on board, we are looking to academically qualify how effective these initiatives can be in helping young people's awareness of their communities, understanding the role of the police, and reducing the levels of youth crime in the city."
James, in his sixth year leading the project, added: "After my time in the probation service I thought my best way to make a difference would be with young people and so I designed the intervention programme of 'Get Away 'N' Get Safe' to go into schools and educate young people and ultimately keep them safe by putting them on the right path.
"There will be kids who smile at the thought of 'gangsters' and think of the excitement and the glamour and I'm trying to remove that mindset; the life of a criminal isn’t nice or glamorous.
"We have a generations of young people who have been told it's not okay to speak up, whether that be to the police or a responsible adult at school, and I tell them 'the best thing to do is to speak up' because everyone here wants Manchester to be safer and we make it safer when we know things and pass information on to the police who can go and make the streets safer with that information."
Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, Bev Hughes, said: “We welcome the roll out of this programme in Greater Manchester and the reinvestment of money from criminals in interventions for young people to educate them on the dangers and impact of crime.”
“This programme will complement the good work already happening within our communities, bringing together police, local authorities, youth services, health, education and schools, as well as other criminal justice partners, to work closely with the community on prevention and enforcement.”
“Violent crime causes serious harm and blights the lives of victims, families and communities. We are committed, not only to strong enforcement against violent crime, but also to trying to prevent it happening.”