Award for officer who’s helping steer children from crime
One of our officers has won an award for helping steer up to 300 children away from crime and getting their young lives back on track.
Detective Constable Deborah Dace is the Youth Crime Officer based in Walsall where, for the last five years, she’s worked with children as young as 10 who’ve committed offences.
Some have been exploited to run drugs, many have behavioural issues that’s led to assaults or damage in their homes, or others have been caught for the first time with weapons.
Dc Dace works with youth and health services, plus charities, to support children faced with the prospect of being charged and a criminal record that’s likely to jeopardise their futures.
She’s a specialist in so called ‘out of court disposals’ where – in the right circumstances – we look to offer young offenders the support and chances they need to prosper rather than criminalising them.
Deb recently won a West Midlands Police Diamond Award for “undoubtedly changing the lives of many young people”.
The citation read out at the awards event told how Deb is “unwaveringly fair, she will help young people with mental health needs, go with them to a college interview, find the money for their first month’s hostel rent or work with
other agencies to get the right support”.
Deb has worked with us for almost 30 years – including time as a response officer attending 999 calls and a detective – but says her youth crime role is perhaps the most rewarding.
She said: “The landscape has certainly changed: when I started I was dealing mainly with low-level assaults, criminal damage and theft but over the last couple of years children I’m working with have been found with a weapon or been exploited into crime.
“The easiest thing to do is to charge them with criminal offences. If they’re found with some drugs or a knife, why not charge them?
“But my job is to understand how they’ve found themselves in that position. Have they been bullied or threatened and foolishly felt having a knife would help? Have they been groomed into carrying those drugs?
“Many children I’m helping are first time offenders; they made stupid decisions or found themselves on a slippery slope and couldn’t escape. In cases like this, criminalising them is more likely to exacerbate the problems, not help them or steer them away from crime.
“But make no mistake…we’ll only take this route in the right circumstances. And when it’s right to press charges and take children to court that’s exactly what we’ll do.”
Deb works with a range of agencies and meets regularly to discuss children who’ve come to their attention and to develop plans designed to steer them away from trouble and negative influences.
She estimates around three-quarters of the young people she’s supported have accepted the support and not gone on to commit more offences.
“It’s lovely to receive the award,” added Deb, “but this really is a team effort. I couldn’t do this alone. It’s great to see many of the children we’ve helped really turn their lives around, getting back into education, training or work, and improving their life prospects. That’s what it’s all about.”