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11 September 2019
A custody programme which reaches out to young adults in a bid to steer them away from a life of crime and into jobs including football coaching has yielded some impressive results.
There was a positive response from attendees in the custody sector as Inspector Jack Rowlands from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) delivered his talk on DIVERT at the Police Federation’s National Custody Seminar at Hinckley, Leicestershire.
DIVERT is an MPS custody programme designed to divert 18-25 years olds away from offending and into employment, development and education. It is currently based in Brixton, Croydon, Wood Green, Stoke Newington, Bethnal Green and Lewisham Police.
Custody Intervention Coaches based directly in stations speak with young adults with the ultimate aim of changing their direction.
Through working with local football clubs - Millwall and Crystal Palace - as well as local businesses including construction companies, some have gone on to completing football coaching courses and have been trained to work within the construction industry.
Between its launch in 2015 and October 2018 more than 320 people have gone through the programme - 150 of which are now employed, with another 100 in training and development for work.
Only 7% out of the 320 have reoffended. Over 60% of those spoken with were either arrested for possession of weapons, drugs of violent crime.
Since October, coaches have worked with around 550 people - over 300 have been given guidance, 157 are in training and development with 57 in employment.
Insp Rowlands said: “This is what we’re really proud of. We’re proud of our outcomes – I personally see a complete change in people’s demeanours.”
Its success has resulted in it being rolled out across other forces. From January 2020, Thames Valley Police, South Yorkshire Police, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire Police will be joining the scheme.
And as the scheme has strong ties with tackling county lines operations on top of quelling serious violent crime, it is hoped when more forces are on board it will improve cross-border working in order to more effectively do so.
In April 2019, DIVERTYouth was launched to help 10-17 year olds that come into Brixton Custody by connecting the appropriate adult and young person to an on call youth worker who then meets them as soon as they leave; reconnecting them into education.
Insp Rowlands says they have since been working closely with MOPAC and have started an evaluation with the College of Policing to provide an evidence base to influence the Home Office for future funding.
He added: “We’ve had continuous support from the commissioner and the former Home Secretary who spent a two-hour visit with us, taking time to talk to people on the programme, the coaches and with colleagues about the value of DIVERT – how it prevents serious violence and how we can use custody as a teachable moment to get people away from this lifestyle.”
When asked what advice he would give to other forces considering taking on a similar project, he said: “It’s just about doing it – just get cracking and before you know it you’ll be delivering outcomes – and it doesn’t necessarily need to be in custody, it can be out on the street, it can be in any other environment. I think the key advice I would give is identify the people in your workforce that want to do this and identify the organisations that have the right provisions and outcomes as well as understanding policing culture.”