'If it wasn't for CREATE and REBOOT, I would be doing god knows what with people being anti-social'.
That was the message from 12-year-old Chris Massey — one of three young people who spoke to us about how they have been driven away from a life of crime, as part of a walkabout around Bognor Regis on Thursday (July 25).
Alongside inspector Steve Turner, and CREATE youth club leader Keely Hardy, Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne also took part in the event, which part of the force’s targeted anti-social behaviour (ASB) public awareness campaign, running from July 22 to July 28. Katy spoke to young people who have been supported by the force’s new early intervention programme REBOOT.
'I used to hang around with all the bad people'
Chris, who now has ambitions to go to university, said: "I've been at CREATE since it first started a couple of years ago. My mum signed me up on the first day. It's somewhere to go away from your family if you have problem at home.
"At first, I was timid, shy, crying but the next week I absolutely loved it. I was hyper and getting involved.
"It's for kids from age 11 up to 18 and it just keeps them off the streets doing stuff which will actually help rather than causing havoc. I would definitely recommend it."
When asked how CREATE and REBOOT have made a difference to his life, he added: "If it wasn't for this support, I would be doing god knows what with people being anti-social really."
Sky Appleton, 14, said she used to be a 'completely different person', before CREATE and REBOOT intervened.
"I used to hang around with all the bad people but now I have friends who actually don't try to drag me into that mess," she said.
"It's really important because when you're older [anti-social behaviour] can give you a criminal record."
Specifically on the positive impact of CREATE, Amber Gregory, 13, said: "It's helped me meet new friends, be creative, open my shell and be true to myself.
"I wanted to meet new people and help Bognor. I would recommend it if you're scared of meeting new people. Come to CREATE, it's really not hard to come and introduce yourself."
'It's not just for the police to arrest their way out of it'
Following a spate of anti-social behaviour in Sussex, the PCC office secured £890,000 from the Home Office intervention fund, which saw the introduction of REBOOT. The scheme consists of five stages, culminating in a civil injunction should the previous four steps fail to deter the anti-social behaviour. Read more about how the scheme works here
A Sussex Police spokesperson said PCC Katy Bourne, who was this week confirmed as the new chair of the association of police and crime commissioners, is ‘passionate about this unique approach' to tackling low level crime and curbing serious violence.
Katy said: "I think it's vital. It's not just for the police to arrest their way out of it. We are talking about young people, maybe as young as 10, 11 or 12, and the last thing you want to do is lock them up.
"Yes, some of their behaviour is not the sort of behaviour we would want to see but actually should they be locked up for that, should they get a criminal record, it will impact the rest of their life when they are only 12-years-old.
"Schemes like this, REBOOT in particular, are focused rather on the positives rather than the negatives. They will tell them what they can't do but they will ask what they like doing. All that energy gets directed in a much more positive way. We've got three young people here today who have had quite difficult incidences but they have been really positive."
Since April 1, the Sussex PCC office has accepted 270 referrals from children aged 10-17, who have come to the attention of the police or other local agency.
On REBOOT, Katy added: "We were able to show there was a real need for this in Sussex. We had a lot of statistics and data to put forward and that there was a lot of good partnership working but it just needed that little extra boost.
"That's what this scheme brings. It absolutely works which is why we are doing it. We ran a pilot in Hastings last year and about 70 young people went through that. None of them got to the last stage and they were all deterred from re-offending.
"The numbers that are getting through is phenomenal. We anticipated getting through 20 young people a month at the most but at the moment were are getting two or three a day. There is a real need for this in Sussex. The police love it, the local authorities love it, the schools like it because it rewards good behaviour rather than the bad. That's what has been missing."
Watch inspector Steve Turner speak about the positive impact of the scheme in our video at the top of the page.
'Not judging the conversations they have is a big thing'
CREATE tackles anti-social behaviour by consulting and engaging with young people aged 12 and over. Read more here
Speaking during the walkabout, club leader Keely said: "It's amazing for us to be doing this, showing that not all young people are terrors. They are young people and it needs to be seen that they are engaging with activities around Bognor and it's really important that we have youth provision and a lot more of it.
"It's about making sure that we are creating a vision for young people and getting more youth provision in Bognor Regis.
"It's mostly about allowing them to be themselves. Not judging the conversations they have is a big thing and making sure they understand it is a safe place to be able to talk. We have people come in to talk about mental health and wellbeing and we have got them engaged in various project. We just want them to be good citizens really.
"We have got a good network in and around Bognor Regis. We've been around about 16 months. From professionals to parents, we have a good social media input. That's how we get people through the door. It's a lot of word of mouth as well. People see us about and ask questions. I roam the streets with leaflets
"The support from the police is extremely important. To have them onside and supporting us is an absolute asset for us as an organisation and to CREATE. It's brilliant and thanks to Katy for supporting us."