As the Partnership Development Officer for Aberdeen, one of the core roles of my job is addressing youth-related antisocial behaviour.
This is an ongoing issue and has historically been dealt with by increasing police presence in affected areas.
However, what we often find is that when you tackle the problem in one area, it is only displaced to another.
So the question was, how do we solve the issue, which at its height in December 2020 resulted in more than 90 calls to police?
I looked at this from a public health perspective and took the approach to engage with young people, utilising youth workers from Aberdeen City Council.
We spoke with the manager at Tesco on the Lang Stracht, where there had been previous reports of youths gathering and causing issues.
Wifi and phone chargers
He was supportive of our approach by was keen to find out why the shop was an attractive option for young people to congregate.
The answer was simple – it was sheltered, had free wifi and phone charging points.
You and I might take wifi, electricity to charge a phone and the safety of being under cover in a stable home environment for granted.
What we as people don’t always consider is what home is like for a young person who feels safer on the street.
Grants from the Fairer Aberdeen Fund and YouthLink Scotland allowed us to gift these young people their own space.
Alongside a professional street artist lessons were given to some and they painted the most wonderful mural which is well worth a visit.
Our approach gave the young people their own space and a sense of pride and that has been reflected in the outcomes.
Since the hub opened on May 27, there have been less than 10 calls to the store, the behaviour hasn’t just been displaced elsewhere in the community, five young people have gained Saltire Awards for volunteering work, one is going through the process of joining Street Sports as a volunteer and we’re looking to build on this success.
Our youth workers, Street Sports and AFCCT really are key to this as they build those trusting relationships and thereafter they can challenge behaviours and gain that change the young people need in order to reach positive destinations.
We’ve two young people on our steering committee, who are unwittingly learning how to use their leadership skills to a positive effect.
What a turnaround and all we did was listen, act and get the young people involved in designing their own solution.
As we continue to bring this community together; this group of young people hope to leave a lasting visual legacy by expanding their mural painting skills to other areas.
Although unimportant to the outcomes, the project has been nominated for the STAR awards within the local authority and the Chief Constable’s Excellence awards.
I think this is a testament to the innovative approach by the team and a nod towards a trauma-informed policing approach and a tremendous example of what can be done when partners come together.