In order to better engage with young people, we felt it important to understand current perceptions and existing relationships between the police and young people.
Using this information, North Yorkshire Police will produce a Youth Strategy to ensure that all children and young people can develop a positive relationship with the force.
We contacted a number of schools, sixth forms, youth offending groups, youth clubs and some looked after children, to gain a diverse view.
Over 400 responses were received. Below is a summary of the main points for each question in the survey.
What do you think of the police?
On the whole, most felt that the police ‘did a good job.’ Those who said they had no experiences with the police often had a positive perception of policing, and those from the schools in Harrogate and Boroughbridge felt the police ‘did their best.’ Contrastingly, young people from youth groups/clubs, YJS and other groups (particularly in the Scarborough area) strongly disagreed that the police do a good job. Many referred to their own experiences to justify why they felt the police did not do a good job: these included random stop and search and a feeling that they were not listened to by the police because they are young people.
What do the police think of young people?
The majority (64%) of respondents offered phrases such as: ‘trouble makers/causers; irresponsible; dangerous; risky; drinking/drugs/smoking; judgemental; naïve; reckless…’ The pattern was clear: overall perception was that the police felt young people were a source of trouble, crime and ASB. This response was the same for young people in all of the groups in all of the areas. Even those who had not disclosed any previous contact with the police offered the same responses.
Underpinning these responses might be a feeling that the police wouldn’t be coming to speak to them if they didn’t think young people were the root of some problems in the communities: i.e. if young people were not noticed by the police, the police wouldn’t need to make school visits!
Very few offered a positive response. Some younger children suggested that they might be ‘good’ but this was fairly exceptional.
A small handful responded, ‘I don’t know, you should ask them.’ Perhaps a lesson in wording questions for us here!
What do you think the police should do for young people?
Many responses here suggested that the police should listen, and take more seriously, the thoughts and opinions of young people. On the whole, the respondents felt that they were not listened to and did not command respect from the police. One response simply said ‘they should respect us the same as older people.’ This sentiment was expressed in most of the answers. Others, particularly those who had alluded to previous contact with the police, felt that they should be ‘left alone.’ Some felt that the police spent too much time trying to talk to them, instead of allowing young people to just get on with what they are doing. Some suggested that not all young people are trouble makers, so the police should not ‘stereotype’ them.
In terms of the police practically ‘doing something,’ some suggested that more ‘activities’ and talks could be given by the police, but further explanations were not given. Some young people from the groups in Scarborough suggested that more youth clubs were needed, but this may not be strictly the responsibility of the police.
Others simply wrote, ‘help us.’ Some young people quantified this with suggestions of being able to turn their lives around if they had become noticed by the police before. Others suggested, again, that not all young people are responsible for crime/ASB and can in fact be victims of this themselves, requiring the police to ‘help’ and offer appropriate assistance.
What do you worry about in terms of crime and ASB?
The majority of responses to this question were, ‘nothing, I feel safe,’ which is a positive response overall. Lack of safety was identified to occur mostly at night time or when individuals (girls in particular) were on their own.
Those who quantified why they didn’t feel safe mostly identified verbal abuse, harassment and being followed as main factors. Some female respondents said that older men made them feel uncomfortable and they worried about being sexually harassed. A very small minority noted physical abuse as a threat to them, including one response which had concerns about being stabbed.
Do you think that young people report crime to the police?
Overwhelmingly the response to this question was ‘no,’ or ‘probably not,’ for reasons including: ‘don’t want to be a grass/snitch/tell-tale,’ and whether or not the crime involved friends or someone they knew. There was a degree of ‘fear’ surrounding this: fear that they might get into trouble (with the police or the offender), fear that they may be ostracised if they ‘grassed,’ and fear that something unwarranted might happen to them if they reported.
Some responses were quantified with the perceived severity of the crime determining if they would report it. One respondent wrote, ‘no I wouldn’t, but then if someone was holding a knife, I would.’
A few young people wrote that they would tell a responsible adult first (parent, older sibling), and some suggested that they would ‘deal with it’ on their own.
This shows that young people are unaware of the ability to report crime anonymously, taking away the fear of being labelled a ‘snitch.’ Crimestoppers and other agencies allow anonymous reporting: a recommendation would be or the police to emphasise this when they engage with young people (in schools, clubs etc.).
A good number of young people said yes they would report a crime to the police, but these were mainly older students from schools who had no previous contact.
Do the police treat you fairly and respectfully?
Many responses to this were: ‘I don’t know,’ mainly due to the high levels of individuals who hadn’t been involved with the police previously. As such, the only respondents who had solid opinions on this issue were those what had or knew of police approaches. Some felt that the way they looked/dressed meant that the police targeted them in some way (stop and search etc). Others felt that because they are ‘young people’ the police treat them differently.
If you were in danger or had been harmed, would you report it to the police?
Reassuringly, most respondents answered yes to this question, suggesting that there are high levels of confidence in the ability of the police to keep people safe.
Some (mostly those who had been known to the police previously) felt that they would be more inclined to ‘deal with it’ themselves or seek help from friends and family.
Those who had a particularly negative view of policing throughout the survey answered ‘no,’ with some suggesting that the police would not do anything about the crime.
Do the police listen to young people?
Responses to this question were tentative: most answers were quantified in some way (e.g. ‘hopefully they do’), simply didn’t know. Perhaps there is scope to show that yes, the police do listen to young people (through development of this strategy, for example). The fact that the police are asking these questions, might offer a perception that we do want to listen and learn from these responses.
Many responses said ‘no’ reinforcing the perceptions outlined in question two. Those young people involved in the YJS or those who had contact with the police (as an offender or witness, rather than a victim) felt that they had not been listened to in their previous experiences.
On the other hand, there were some positive responses suggesting that the police did consider the views of young people, but that sometimes police misconceptions of young people were to blame.