A group of young people in Cheshire have produced a report detailing how police and partners can improve their engagement with under 25s.
The report by Cheshire Youth Commission has been produced following an extensive consultation with more than 3,000 young people across Cheshire over the last year.
Despite the lockdown restrictions, the commission members were able to speak with peers in new and creative ways, taking their consultation online and delivering virtual workshops to schools during the autumn term.
They found that online crime, exploitation and gang culture, abuse and victims of crime and relationships with the police are some of the areas of concern for the younger generation.
The report has been welcomed by police and crime commissioner David Keane and he is encouraging both Cheshire Constabulary and other partners in the criminal justice sector to take on board the recommendations to improve engagement with young people.
When discussing online crime with their peers, the Youth Commission found that many young people felt that Covid-19 had increased the likelihood of negative behaviours being experienced online. They found that loneliness, as a result of the national lockdown, has led young people to seek friendships online with strangers.
The report recommends that it should be made easier for young people to report online crime to the police in an anonymous way and utilise social media to raise awareness of the support services available.
When discussing exploitation and gang crime, young people felt that discussions relating to these topics from police and educational establishments often feel like lectures or that their concerns aren’t taken seriously enough.
The Youth Commission is recommending that criminal justice partners take more time to understand young peoples’ concerns and listen without judgment as to why young people became involved in the first place. They also recommend that the PCC and partners make sure there is the right type of support in place for young people who become victims.
In regards abuse and victims of crime, the Youth Commission found that being a victim of crime, can leave lasting impacts on a young person’s mental health even when they haven’t been the direct victim of crime or abuse.
Young people shared openly that they had been left feeling forgotten and isolated – feelings enhanced by the effects of Covid-19. Support services have appeared inaccessible to large numbers of young people, with many turning to the internet and leading them to unofficial support websites.
They are recommending that all members of the household are offered support and that services are age and victim relevant.
Whilst some individuals did report that engagement could be improved, many had some great things to say about policing in Cheshire, particularly Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).
PCC David Keane said: “I continue to recognise the importance of all those who are under 25, who represent almost a quarter of our population in Cheshire, and want to give them a voice. I continually say how much I value young peoples’ thoughts and opinions and that remains as critical as ever.
“The Youth Commission have worked tirelessly despite the pandemic and have shown strength and resilience in ensuring young people still have the chance to have their say. They’ve found new ways of delivering workshops, completing online consultations and conducting in-depth research.
“Policing has been in the spotlight this year for a number of reasons and ensuring we listen to the views of all our residents is crucial to delivering an effective police service.
“I now look forward to working with the chief constable and other key partners to ensure the issues highlighted in this report are addressed and we continue to work with young people to deliver an effective service.”