Efforts to reduce antisocial behaviour in an Aberdeen community have led to a huge drop in the number of incidents being reported.
At the beginning of 2020, each month there were dozens of reports of antisocial behaviour in Summerhill – particularly around the Woodend Tesco store.
But thanks to hard work from local police and management at the shop, the number of calls on the issue has fallen dramatically.
The success in tackling the problem has been put down to efforts to engage with young people, offering them help and support – and even encouraging them to take up work opportunities.
And some of the youngsters have even been offered placements in a bid to keep them on the straight and narrow.
Sergeant John McOuat, of the West End and Hazlehead community policing team, revealed officers are working hard to build up relationships with young people and helping to provide other avenues for them.
“My main aim when I came into this role earlier this year was to link up with local businesses and speak to officers, because it is them on the ground who know what is going on,” Sgt McOuat said.
“Sometimes we find that when there are calls about anti-social behaviour, it can be the case that it is kids out having fun and there can be a perception from members of the public they are up to no good. That’s very low-level and we don’t have an issue with that.
“On the other hand, there are some who are coming from quite difficult circumstances at home and that can manifest itself in them ‘acting out’. That can cause some issues which we have to deal with.
“Moving up another level, there are just some people who are determined to cause trouble – but that is a small minority. Where that happens, we work with partner agencies and give targeted support to families.
“We listen closely to what the communities are telling us. Kids being kids, they tend to go to the same places because they feel safe there. We put out patrols in those areas and we ask our officers to engage with them, because it is important to build up a relationship. We are there to look after them and support them.
“We will always look to divert young people away when they might be on the verge of getting involved in something a bit more serious. We can do that through working with our partners on projects – things like street sports are a real help for kids in this situation.
“It diverts individuals away from anti-social behaviour and lets them channel it into something positive and meaningful.
“Our ultimate goal is to work with communities and work together to find positive avenues for young people.”
Local businesses and organisations have come on board with the police effort to reduce anti-social behaviour in the area.
Stuart Neil, the store manager at Tesco, said: “At the start of the year, we were getting quite a lot of activity around the front of the store, which could be quite intimidating.
“I know the vast majority didn’t mean anything bad by it – but kids sometimes need a little bit of support and guidance to start making the right decisions.
“We have been working on trying to engage with the kids, and it’s got to the point where we know most of them by name. I will go and talk to them and find out a bit about them.
“If there is a problem, it usually turns out it’s caused by something which has happened at school or at home. I’m a neutral person they can talk to about it.
“Things started going really well and it led to us offering work placements. It gives them some experience, a different perspective and something to focus on.
“Once we are through the pandemic we will look at linking up again with other community organisations to see what else we can do.
“It’s important we do what we can to support these kids.”
Building a relationship with youngsters in the future will be key, according to Sgt McOuat.
“We have ongoing partnerships and everyone is working together to ensure better outcomes for these kids,” he said.
“Sometimes all it takes is a bit of understanding and context, and that means we can approach an individual in the right way.
“If we can build a rapport with them it makes a huge difference. It will help them, and it will help reassure the public.”