Dozens of teenagers involved in wildlife crime have been shown the error of their ways thanks to £62,000 worth of funding into a programme near Newark.
Hill Holt Wood in Norton Disney had initially been working alongside Newark and Sherwood District Council and Nottinghamshire Police before receiving funding from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire to expand the project.
The funding is from Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry’s Make Notts Safe Fund and is part of her commitment to “levelling up” the response to rural crime – which can have a significant impact on the community.
The project itself is aimed at reducing rural crime through education, prevention programmes and restorative activities - investing in the youth of our green spaces and countryside.
Several school sessions have already been delivered on site which are focused on raising awareness and answering questions on how antisocial behaviour affects wildlife and the environment.
Woodland workers and police officers involved in the project also often visit primary schools in the area to spread the word and invite schools for workshops and visits to Hill Holt Wood.
Commissioner Henry said: "Our rural communities have historically felt forgotten so it is great to see how this new dedicated rural crime grant scheme, which has been provided through my Make Notts Safe Fund, is making a difference.
“It is wonderful that we can do outreach work with the young folks give, them somewhere to go, someone of trust to talk to and really get them to love our wonderful countryside.
“This is not done as a jolly treat; it is done to break the cycle of offending so prevents future crimes. The results of this programme have shown it works as those who have attended have changed their behaviour.
“In addition to funding innovative projects such as this one at Hill Holt I have also invested in improving Nottinghamshire Police’s rural crime offer, including new vehicles and equipment and training for control room staff – my ask to the public is please do report rural crime to Nottinghamshire Police so we can tackle it together.”
The impressive work done has been a result of a collaborative approach which sets about making sessions engaging and interesting for all involved.
Nottinghamshire Police Sergeant Rob Harrison, who has been a key figure in improving the project alongside Hill Holt Wood, believes it’s had a significant positive impact on green spaces in the area.
“In Newark a fashion of wildlife crime exists so after a bit more digging we saw it as a negative trend and there was no positive influence to protect our green spaces and look after the environment,” he said.
“We did a bit of research and via extra patrols and some plain clothed work, we determined that it was a small core group of youths causing the issues.
“We came to Hill Holt as we knew they were an alternative provision that works with people from all different backgrounds. It evolved from there and we realised it was having a massive effect. The core group that we put together initially never reoffended so it had a 100% success rate.
“We couldn’t have done this work without the funding we received from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. Every penny has been carefully spent and it’s opened new avenues for us to explore when educating the kids we work with.”
Ben Wilson, Head Ranger at Hill Holt Wood, said: “We started working with Nottinghamshire Police and Newark and Sherwood District Council a few years ago, providing a service for each of them which helped young people at risk of committing rural crime.
“We look at it as a three-fold approach. The first bit is educating young people in schools to provide them with the information they need to prevent them from committing any rural crime but also about the importance of the environment.
“The second step is working with young people who are at risk of offending but haven’t offended, and the third phase is working with people that have committed an offence relating to rural crime and providing them with education as to why that is damaging.
I can’t drive the message enough that everybody needs to look after our environment, so by doing this we can help play a small part.”
Posted on Monday 31st July 2023