East of England Co-operative uses football to tackle anti-social behaviour

The games saw 40 young people playing against members of the Suffolk Police and Co-op Secure Response

Co-op Secure Response – part of the East of England Co-operative – has run a programme of football games to help young people engage with local authorities.

Organised every Monday over the six-week school summer holiday, the games saw 40 young people playing against members of the Suffolk Police and Co-op Secure Response.

The project was the joint initiative of Co-op Secure Response, Suffolk Police, Chantry Academy and Suffolk County Council. It was designed to discourage antisocial behaviour by providing a positive activity for young people to take part in. Those involved also get to learn about the consequences antisocial behaviour can have for others.

One of the young people who took part said: “It has been great fun to have a kick-about and make new friends. Football is my main hobby and during the summer holidays it is better to be active than be at home playing on my Playstation.

“I’ve also enjoyed getting to know the local police officers and the East of England Co-op team – playing football with them has helped me see them as normal people and not just as the people they are at work.”

Related: What are co-ops doing to address security concerns?

Scott Walker, antisocial behaviour officer for Co-op Secure Response, said East of England had introduced an anti-social behaviour team to its security services five years ago. Since then, the team has sought to establish partnerships with the police and local authorities while working with colleagues and customers to provide a safe working and shopping environment.

“The Chantry Football project is one of many initiatives to engage, educate and work in partnership to help tackle anti-social behaviour,” he added. “The project mixes football with community safety. We have had fun playing football together and it has really broken down any misconceptions and preconceived opinions on all sides.

“It’s been great for the young people involved and given them an opportunity to come together and make new friends. It has also been good for the volunteers involved, learning about issues and concerns teenagers are experiencing. I have learnt a great deal from the young participants and I believe they now have a more positive view of the authorities as well.”

Craig Gibbs, police community support officer at Suffolk Police, added: “The main reason for the initiative was to give the young people of Chantry something to do over the summer. It’s turned out to be a brilliantly effective multi-agency project, and the young people involved have really enjoyed it. They have all come from different walks of life and this has brought them together and helped them to form unexpected friendships.

“The project has proven to be a great opportunity for, not only the young people involved to form these new friendships and learn valuable social skills, but also the agencies involved, to develop themselves. The young people now see us in uniforms as humans and not just figures of authority. Using education over enforcement we’ve broken down some barriers and we are really pleased with the outcome of the project.”

Between July 2017 and June 2018, Suffolk Constabulary reported 8,370 cases of antisocial behaviour.

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