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Police to tackle crime and bullies in capital's schools

POLICE will be drafted in to all secondary schools in Scotland's capital city in a bid to tackle bullying, crime and anti-social behaviour.

The so-called "campus cops" scheme was piloted in Edinburgh in April 2007 and it was so successful that Lothian and Borders Police and the City of Edinburgh Council are extending the project to 11 dedicated officers covering the city's 23 schools by April this year.

The council said the involvement of a team of 11 officers in day-to-day school life provides young people with the opportunity to seek advice or help in "stress-free and non-confrontational" situations.

In a typical day, this could result in officers running after-school activities, helping to mediate meetings with children to address bullying and patrolling the community after school to discourage anti-social behaviour.

The School Link Officer project, one of the largest permanent services of its kind in the country, has helped drive down exclusions and build positive relationships, with officers becoming valued members of the school, the council said.

The police officers will help tackle crime such as under-age drinking, substance abuse and truanting, and also form stronger relationships with families to help identify children living with the risk of abuse, neglect, or harm.

Constable David Miller, who has already been involved in the project, said: "I had one 15-year-old who had 25 convictions – all for losing his temper.

"We asked him to behave for a month and he would get something afterwards.

"A local business came in with sponsorship and he got cinema tickets, but the important thing was that he had got out of his habit."

AAron King, 15, and Scott Jobling, 14, both pupils from Boroughmuir High School where the scheme has been piloted, described it as worthwhile.

AAron said: "There is less fighting and other things as well, like less litter."

Alejandro Ruggeri, 17, of James Gillespie High, said: "It's really important to know that they [the officers] are approachable and not just associated with being in trouble."

Yusuf Miah, 17, said he believed the scheme would help tackle "all kinds of anti-social behaviour and help general safety".

A secondary school in Aberdeen was the first in Scotland to start the "campus cops" scheme in 2004. Analysis later showed the number of pupils expelled from Northfield Academy dropped by more than 40%. Offending rates also showed a marked fall while crime in the area around the school hit an all-time low. It was later rolled out to other parts of the country, including Strathclyde and the Lothians.

The police officers enlisted in Edinburgh's schools will also look to build up networks with the local primary schools, to help establish early relationships with younger pupils.

The scheme is said to have led to a general increase in the reporting of crime and anti-social behaviour, with officers working closely with families, guidance staff and child protection workers.

Chief Superintendent Gill Imery, of Lothian and Borders Police, said there were no statistics yet on the pilot but that anecdotally it has been praised by school staff, parents and social workers.

She added: "The expansion of the existing School Link Officer scheme in Edinburgh is a significant step forward for both police, pupils and communities.

"Officers will split their time between schools, establishing relations and integrating with staff and pupils at key times throughout the day.

"Lothian and Borders Police is committed to community engagement and the prevention of crime, so having officers involved in the day-to-day business of so many secondary schools in Edinburgh is an invaluable way of supporting these aims."

Edinburgh City Council's education leader Marilyne MacLaren said: "This is a great project that is highly valued by all involved.

"It provides an opportunity for police officers to show a friendly face and build up positive and non-threatening relations with young people."

A Scottish Government study into campus police in 2010 found they have the biggest impact in deprived areas where communities may lack positive role models and perceptions of the police may be negative.

In Glasgow, a campus police scheme was cited as one reason why the number of pupils excluded or suspended from schools dropped by 53% from 7399 in 2006/07 to 3450 in 2010/11.

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