Last week saw the Bedfordshire Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), host their first-ever three-day conference alongside Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Unit (VERU), for year 9 students across the county.
The event aimed to reach young people who would like to be part of the solution in reducing crime in Bedfordshire, and to help support those at the risk of offending.
Local partners, organisations and colleagues from Bedfordshire Police engaged with young people, sharing their real-life, lived experience and delivering educational talks to encourage young people to consider healthy choices away from crime.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye said: “I am immensely proud of what I have seen over the last few days, from both speakers and schools.
“As part of my Police and Crime Plan, I am committed to collaborating with communities and schools to help young people to understand the impact their actions and choices can have on the rest of their life.
“Every single life of a young person, victim, or person we touch for good is potentially a generation transformed for the better.
“I have lost count of the number of attendees that came up to me to tell me the event was inspiring moving and powerful.
“My team will do everything we have the power and capacity to do, to prevent harm, protect and divert our young people from danger. We will do all we can to help them fulfil their aspirations.
“We might not be able to reach everyone, but we will reach some. So long as I am Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, we will keep doing this Youth Conference each year.”
Detective Inspector Liz Spurling said: “The message from me is about them being ambassadors in our local communities to help protect those most vulnerable to exploitation by gangs and serious organised crime groups.
“The commitment they have shown and what they do understand already about organised crime gangs is impressive.
“They have taken part in interactive activities about spotting the signs in keeping their friends, loved ones and members of the community safe from harm and exploitation.
A Student from Cedars Upper school in Leighton Buzzard said: “Being a teenager, at the age that we are, you do not know what to expect in the future. Knowing that this is a path that you could go down very much scares me.”
Aliyah Morgan who featured in the documentary ‘Hidden girls’ gave a virtual update at the event about her life story of abuse and exploitation.
Year-9 student, Nadia Miah, from Bedford Academy said “The story was detailed and very deep. It was very inspirational to hear their story of her life and how different it was from how we grow up was different for them. I am happy she told us; it has educated me so much about a path I do not want to take.”
Roseann Taylor, who tragically lost her son after he was stabbed to death in Luton in March 2018 spoke at the event. She now works as a Youth Intervention Specialist for the VERU to help educate young people about the consequences of knife crime.
Roseann said “If I have one message it would be – this could happen to anybody; you do not have to be entrenched in gang culture for serious violence to influence your life.
“There is support out there. It’s about letting them know it is there for them.
“I don’t want another parent to suffer what I’ve suffered, and I don’t want any child to go through what happened to my son and the boys that did it.”
Lisa Robinson, Interim Manager of the VERU, said: “It’s been a fantastic experience partnering with the OPCC on this event, and we couldn’t be happier with the feedback we’ve received from the young people. I would like to thank the commissioner for creating a platform for such a vital message to reach so many people.
“But the message doesn’t end here. We will continue to partner with the OPCC and other organisations across Bedfordshire, to educate and support our young people to make positive choices and lead impactful lives.”
If you’d like any more information about this event, please contact [email protected].
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner will be hosting more events like this in the future. Check back on our events page here:
If you’ve been a victim of crime and don’t want to report it to the police, you can contact Bedfordshire Victim Care Services on 0800 0282 887 or visit their website https://www.bedfordshirevcs.com/
For a full list of the OPCC’s funded services, click here.
To contact the Police and Crime Commissioner email [email protected]