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Mobile solution to keeping youngsters out of trouble

Wednesday, 24th March 2010.

A 50,000 project to keep Haverhill youngsters out of trouble on the streets is being set up by youth workers in co-operation with the police.

Haverhill Town Council meeting last night heard details of the Our Friday Night project when they were asked to commit to 4,500 a year towards its running costs.

The project consists of a van set up with equipment for a range of activities from sports to DJ-ing, computer games, sound system, Internet, soft drinks, cafe tables and chairs, which can travel to wherever young people have gathered in the town.

Initially it will run on WEdnesday, Thursday and Friday evenings, with the aim to add Saturdays as well.

Simon Pickering, the youth development officer for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, and Haverhill police chief, Inspector Andrew Mason, have been leading the project.

Mr Pickering told members they had consulted with young people in Haverhill on Friday and Saturday nights through youth workers.

There had been a mixed response, but a large number did not want to be building-based - going to the youth centre - which meant there were many out and about on the streets.

This led to them becoming involved in nuisance and anti-social behaviour.

A recent experiment where the Wos Up truck, a community youth vehicle, was brought into the town offering a range of activities, proved very successful wherever it was set up, often attracting 60 or 70 youngsters.

The project would deliver something similar, specifically and only for Haverhill, the only one in west Suffolk, and in that sense described by Insp Mason as 'trailblazing'.

"This has been thought through in great depth," he said. "It is right at the forefront of some interesting thinking about how we deal with this nuisance problem with young people."

He gave the example of a group who had been a problem congregating in Tesco car park, to whom they offered the chance of being involved in the graphic design to decorate the new van, but only if they were not involved in further trouble.

"We've now had no problem from them for the last three weeks," he said.

Capital funding of 48,956 for the project has come from various sources - 30,456 from West Suffolk Community Safety Partnership, 17,000 from the Suffolk drugs and alcohol team (DAAT) and 2,500 from county councillors' locality budgets.

Now they needed the 6,500 a year estimated running costs, of which 2,000 would be coming from St Edmundsbury's youth budget.

Town councillors agreed to fund the rest for three years.

Cllr Maureen Byrne said: "I think it's brilliant, fabulous, great, and it's an investment that is long awaited."

The truck is currently being refitted and when it is ready will go to such locations as the market square, the recreation ground, Tesco car park, Strasbourg Square, Chalkstone playing fields and anywhere else where young people began to gather.

Haverhill Online News

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