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[06 MAR 01]  WEST MIDLANDS POLICE NEWS
Truancy Crusade Sends Kids Back To School

An anti-truancy initiative in Coventry has seen more than 180 children returned to school since the start of the school year.

Beat officers in Wyken and Bell Green sectors have stopped 222 children in a series of spot-checks designed to catch youngsters dodging school.

And 182 were taken back to school as part of the scheme set up between police, education welfare officers and headteachers.

Most of those stopped were aged 15 or 16, but officers were surprised at the number of younger children they caught.

Sgt Lee Patterson, the beat manager for Longford who co-ordinated the initiative, said:

"Officers stopped a total of 222 children in thirteen four-hour patrols. They returned 182 to school but the others were either with parents or had a valid reason to be out.

"The operation took place in residential and shopping centres in the Bell Green and Wyken areas and did not include the city centre. The initiative began at the beginning of term and we will be continuing it throughout the school year."

Sgt Patterson paid tribute to the dedication and commitment of education welfare officers and the head teachers of the schools in the target areas.

He said:

"More than 60 youngsters were stopped in the first five days of the initiative alone.

"The inter-agency approach has ensured minimum loss to the regular patrol time undertaken by officers, who are all based on the sector and who are committed to tackling nuisance crime often committed by youngsters who are playing truant from school.

"The education welfare officers have been a great help as have the teaching staff who have been and will continue to contact the parents of those found outside school without a valid reason during school hours.

PC Angie Fisher, from the Wyken sector, added:

"It is apparent that the school children are now aware of our pro-active patrols. Our action has been praised by school staff and the parents of some of the children who are not always aware that their children have been missing their education."

As well as returning the youngsters to school, officers were also arrested three youths wanted for outstanding crimes.

Sgt Patterson said:

"There are strong links between crime statistics and truancy but we receive more complaints from people about bad behaviour and nuisance crimes to do with this age group.

"We are determined to address these issues and punish the people responsible.

I must add that most pupils in this area have a good attendance record and we have been delighted with the many positive contacts we have made with pupils attending local schools.

It is the minority who believe that they will not be caught and who think that their parents will never find out that we are targeting in this on-going initiative."
 
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CWN / Crimes, Fires & Accidents / West Midlands Police / 26 Feb 01
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