Youth Street Watch launched in West Bromwich
This week we are celebrating our volunteers as part of National Volunteers Week. We caught up with a group of volunteers in West Bromwich who are part of the new Youth Street Watch scheme.
A brand new scheme thought to be the first of its kind in the country is helping cops connect with young people.
The programme, called Youth Street Watch, was launched in April 2019 and has recruited five students aged between 18 and 20 from Sandwell College.
The young volunteers give up their spare time to patrol West Bromwich centre with town ambassadors or local police community support officers.
And when they are out and about they will identify any issues or concerns like anti-social behaviour, graffiti, drug litter, homelessness and will speak to people visiting the town centre.
However, the scheme isn’t designed to fight crime, it’s a community led project that helps build relationships between teenagers and the police.
Sergeant Mike Bradley, from the local neighbourhood policing team, led the idea for the scheme. He said: “The initial aim was to build relationships with the local college. West Bromwich as a town is transitioning from a market town into a college town and as it does so we have a lot more young people visiting the area.
“I wanted to do something that would make a difference to how young people see the police.
“At a local youth summit we asked the young people what their impression of the police was and they said that they saw us as there to ‘hassle’ them. This couldn’t be further from the truth so I set about doing something that would help change their perceptions and the street watch idea was formed.
“I think that young people identify with young people. They don’t want to speak to the police but having the Youth Street Watch with us means they see a familiar face and there have been times when they are happier talking to the team and that’s great to see.”
Lisa Hill, the Operations Manager for West Bromwich Business Improvement District, is the coordinator of the trial scheme and works in partnership with WMP.
She said: “The Youth Street Watch members have been recruited from the public service course at Sandwell College.
“They are people who are thinking about a career in the police and the volunteering role has helped them experience what it’s like to go out and about with officers, has built their confidence and volunteering I feel will help them in the future with any prospective employers.”
Chloe Kaur is a recent recruit. The 20-year-old is a student at Sandwell College, she works part-time and still finds time to volunteer.
She said: “My ultimate aim is to become a police officer, by volunteering I get to experience first-hand what it’s like to be on patrol. I don’t think any amount of research can replace experience.
“What I love about Street Watch is that it’s flexible. They have been able to accommodate me around my shifts and studies. It’s great to feel like I have really made a difference and helped people.”
To find out more about the volunteering opportunities available at WMP visit our volunteers web page: https://jobs.west-midlands.police.uk/volunteers-2/