A ground-breaking new scheme has been launched to help young people in Rhyl stay out of trouble after a mini crime wave in the town.
The Stand Against Violence Initiative – SAVI – has brought together police, other local organisations and charities in a project aimed at reducing violence and anti-social behaviour among youngsters aged 11-16.
Police identified a number of teenagers, many of them girls, involved in 190 cases of criminal damage and violent and abusive behaviour in Rhyl from July to November last year.
The pilot scheme has been backed by £21,000 from North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones and the Home Office Early Intervention that’s designed to tackle serious violence through a variety of local schemes.
Outreach work is being done by the West Rhyl Young People’s Project and a youth café has been set up at the former Wellington pub.
Meanwhile, Tae Kwon Do sessions are being delivered by Prestatyn-based Gareth Pritchard, a leading instructor and a world champion in his own right.
There will also be free monthly film screenings at the Little Theatre in Rhyl’s Vale Road, featuring videos warning of the dangers of knife crime, violent crime and County Lines where drugs gangs recruit children and young people as suppliers.
The man behind the scheme is Rhyl Community Beat Manager Police Constable Darren Ankers.
He has worked with Crime Prevention Coordinator Donna Taylor to bring together local voluntary organisations which young people can access at youth café on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
He said: “When I joined the police 18 years ago this sort of problem was usually caused by youths aged 16 to 18 in gangs in particular areas.
“What’s different now is that they are 13 to 15-year-olds and a high proportion of them are females and is really uncharted territory for us.
“The idea of a positive role model comes from the footballer Ian Wright who was from a poor background with an absent father but he had a teacher who inspired him to play football and that changed his life.”
Donna Taylor added: “There were incidents of anti-social behaviour threat of violence and we identified the hotspots, which included the High Street.
“They were running through the town and the shopping centre, being abusive, causing criminal damage and a lot of fear and concern.
“The peak period for the trouble was Wednesday evenings between 6pm and 8pm, which was when there were no provisions in place for young people and it showed us we needed a different approach to the problem and this funding has enabled us to provide it.”
Arfon Jones, a former police inspector himself, said: “This has the potential to be a really ground-breaking project and I know that police forces elsewhere in the UK are watching it with a view to introducing something similar.
“Darren, Donna and Hannah Rowan from West Rhyl Young People’s Project have given a presentation to Gwent Police and Warwickshire Police are also interested in the way that they are pulling together different organisations to work to tackle the root causes of violence and anti-social behaviour.
“This is a fantastic example of multi-agency partnership working which is being led by the community and I’m delighted to support community leaders who are willing to help and inspire vulnerable young people.”
Darren Ankers added: “We want to give young people better aspirations in life and put them on a path towards creating a better future for themselves.
“We reckoned there were ten kids in Rhyl who were a real problem and another 20 who were on the radar of the police and behind them were quite a few more with the potential to succeed them.
“But we want to show them that there are other things in life and we wanted somewhere that would work for them as a place they could meet up, have a coffee and access the internet.
“We approached the West Rhyl Young People’s Project on Bedford Street and the Brighter Futures Team at the Wellington on Wellington Road and this money from the Commissioner has enabled us to provide a controlled environment with trained staff who can help them with their issues.
“We needed something to come between the police and the kids because we don’t want to criminalise them, we want to divert them before that becomes necessary.
“We don’t have to hold their hands. We just need to put them on the right path and let them walk it themselves.”
Among those attending the event was the High Sheriff of Clwyd, Stephanie Catherall, who said: “This is a fantastic event for the community and the joining of forces is incredible – it’s definitely the way forward.
“It’s about helping young people young onto the right path and giving them a voice and this kind of environment gives them that voice.”