The number of crimes committed at schools in Sheffield fell in the last year, following work by teachers and police to educate youngsters and divert them away from offending.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed police dealt with 527 offences at schools in the city in 2018, compared to 612 in the previous 12 months.
Of the 527 crimes South Yorkshire Police recorded in 2018, more than a quarter of investigations – 138 – ended with no suspect being identified, 10 suspects were charged and 109 were dealt with by partner agencies.
PC Mark Toyne, a schools officer with South Yorkshire Police, said a specialist ‘out-of’court disposal panel’ was set up around a year ago with the aim of educating youngsters on the dangers of getting involved in crime.
The number of offences of possession of a bladed article recorded also fell – down from 55 in 2017 to 30 last year.
PC Toyne said: “The panel iss made up of the Youth Justice Service, Community Youth Team, Remedy and a liaison and diversion heath nurse.
“They sit every Wednesday and they look at the history of the child and try and finalise the matter outside of court so we are not criminalising young people.
“For possessing a knife, the minimum punishment is a youth conditional caution. The conditions of that caution are mandator. The team would then look at working closely with the youth justice programme to try and educate that young person around knife crime and the young person will receive input from all referral agencies.
“It’s a multi-agency approach and it’s for any crimes involving young people because what we don’t want is to criminalise young people and affect their future.”
PC Toyne described the process as an ‘MOT’ for youngsters, who are sometimes at a ‘crossroads’ in their lives.
He added: “It’s definitely more effective than having them in court because they have not been criminalised, as such.
“What it also does is let them know the reason. It's like telling a toddler off at home – if you don’t explain the reasons they will never know what they’ve done is wrong.”
It is not just the reactive work, which PC Toyne said had led to a reduction in criminal offences being committed in the city's schools.
PC Toyne is one of six schools officers across Sheffield and the team hold regular assemblies and presentations in schools, which he said were a ‘big factor’ in the reduction of crimes in schools.
He said a ‘Guns and Knives Take Lives' presentation had been delivered to 31,885 pupils across the city and 175 sessions had been done on the safe use of social media.
The officer said: “We also have a scheme called Street Doctors who are medical students and they have spent time on A&E wards and they have seen the effects and seen the grieving relatives.
“They will work with us in schools and youth clubs and speak to them about their first-hand experiences of knife crime.”
In September 2018, a fight at Fir Vale School escalated into a full-scale riot.
More than 15 police vehicles, dog teams and a helicopter were sent to the school.
Two people suffered minor injuries after an ‘altercation’ broke out between a group of students on September 25, South Yorkshire Police said at the time.
The headteacher at the time, Simon Hawkins, left his job a month later.
In a letter to parents, the chairman of governors Usma Saeed wrote that Simon Hawkins had left the school ‘with immediate effect by mutual agreement.’
And in October Firth Park Academy went into lockdown after three men made their way onto the site and refused to leave.
But the total number of offences in 2018, was still a reduction of almost 14 per cent compared to the previous 12 months.
PC Toyne, who has been a police officer in the city for 15 years, said: “When you join the police you want to make a difference and in certain parts of the job, that’s harder to do.
“Being a parent myself, I feel as though I am dealing with children who are at a real crossroads and by having a positive impact, it can make a difference.”
The number of sexual offences recorded in schools actually rose from 21 in 2017 to 22 in 2018.
With children being in school for 190 days a year, this means on average 2.7 crimes were being committed in the district every school day in 2018 and 3.2 in 2017.
The figures cover offences committed in a school location, and not all offences may have taken place inside the school or involved students or staff.
Number of offences
2017 – 612
2018 – 527
Number of offences of possession of a bladed article
2017 – 55
2018 – 30
Assault with injury
2017 – 187
2018 – 172
2017 – 21
2018 – 22
Percentage reduction in crime from 2017 to 2018
13.88 per cent