A youth hub designed to reduce anti-social behaviour has been unveiled after more than a year of work from police, supermarket bosses and community organisations.
Over the course of recent years the amount of disorder in the west of the city has increased significantly, particularly in areas such as Summerhill and Sheddocksley.
In a bid to combat the trend, community officers teamed up with Stuart Neil, the store manager of Tesco on Rousay Drive.
Through engaging with groups of young people, they found many simply needed a place to go.
Now, 18 months on and at a cost of more than £14,000, a new covered youth hub in the supermarket’s car park has been officially launched.
Facility is ‘one of a kind’
Constable Derek Bain, from Police Scotland’s community safety partnership, believes the youth hub is the first facility of its kind in Scotland.
“This project is a nod to the new style of policing,” he said. “We will still bring people to justice but at the same time we have to try and understand their story and implement opportunities for them to benefit their lives.
“There is no outdoor hub like this in Scotland, and the idea came from the kids.
“Some of these young people are leaders but don’t know they are leaders. People are following them down the wrong road.
“If we can take those leadership qualities and encourage them to give a positive example, we can teach them how to interact positively.”
‘Huge’ benefits to project
Tesco store manager Stuart Neil, who also offers work opportunities to local youngsters in a bid to keep them on the right path, said his motivation for getting involved was born from his own experiences.
“We have been working for 18 months to try and get this off the ground and it’s a great achievement,” he said.
“The benefits it will bring the youngsters in the area and not just the hub, but the other activities we have going on in the background too, are huge.
“It will keep them entertained and rewarded if we can give them something to work towards.
“My background is really similar to these kids. I can empathise with them and I want to give them an opportunity to engage.”
Young people using the hub will be able to access free wi-fi for the next five years following a successful bid to the Fairer Aberdeen fund.
A professional artist has also been drafted in to work with them on a bespoke mural, giving them a say in what the youth hub looks like.
Sporting activities will be provided by the Denis Law Legacy Trust, Street Sports and the Aberdeen FC Community Trust, while discussions are also ongoing with Sheddocksley Baptist Church.
The initiative follows a long period of partnership working in the community aimed at tackling anti-social behaviour.
‘There is a key to everybody’
Wilma Smith, a community learning development worker at Aberdeen City Council, said the hub project is about looking after the needs of local teens.
“I believe there is a key to everybody – you just have to find what that key is,” she added.
“If you can build relationships and find out what they are really interested in that really works.
“Whether it’s music, sport or art, we need to get to know the people and build relationships, because out of that comes the positives.”
Sarah Dunn, an early intervention worker at Police Scotland, paid tribute to the force’s partner organisations.
“None of this would have been possible if Stuart wasn’t here and we would still have been trying to sort something out,” she said.
“If the partners are not on board it is really difficult to get things up and running, so it makes every bit of difference.”
Kingswells, Sheddocksley and Summerhill councillor Steve Delaney said: “This facility is much needed and long overdue. Up until now there’s been nowhere for young people in the Summerhill area to gather.
“Young people need a space to call their own, somewhere they can be themselves and meet up with friends in a safe environment. The youth hub has been designed in consultation with young people in the area and has come about as a result of joint working with Tesco, Police Scotland, Aberdeen City Council, Mastrick, Sheddocksley and Summerhill Community Council and others.
“I commend the joint working by partner agencies to raise funds and bring these plans together during such difficult times and of course to extend a warm welcome to the young people who are going to benefit from the facility.”