NEW PROGRAM PAIRS POLICE WITH YOUTH WORKERS
A new innovative pilot partnership between police and youth workers designed to reduce youth offending has recently rolled out in Melbourne’s north-west and south-east (29 August).
The Embedded Youth Outreach Project (EYOP) is a 12-month partnership between Victoria Police and Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS) that pairs a police officer with a youth worker every night in Wyndham, Hobson’s Bay, Maribyrnong, Greater Dandenong, Casey and Cardinia Police Service Areas.
North-West Metro Region Superintendent Therese Fitzgerald said an officer and youth worker will team up to respond to young people in real-time, engaging with them at incidents or police stations to assess their needs and provide critical initial support and referrals.
“We know that locking up young people is not the only solution. We need to work with other support agencies to ensure our young people are better engaged and have the opportunity to contribute positively to community,” Supt Fitzgerald said
“Many young people who interact with police and the justice system have a multitude of issues to deal with in their lives.
“Police officers and youth workers will work collaboratively to identify services to assist young person tackle these issues, which may include breakdowns in family relationships, alcohol or drug abuse, unemployment, mental health issues or disengagement from school.”
Victoria Police selected the sites for the EYOP based on rates of youth offending and antisocial behaviour in two divisions, which are also characterised by rapidly growing young populations.
Southern-Metro Region Acting Commander Paul Hollowood said police were pleased to be working with YSAS’s experienced youth workers, who will play an important role in breaking down barriers between police and young people.
“This pilot will also aim to hold young people to account for their actions, where necessary, but also provide a timely and targeted approach to address underlying issues,” Acting Commander Hollowood said.
“This project will also strengthen the existing efforts of Victoria Police Youth Resource and Specialist Officers, who proactively engage with youth on a regular basis.”
The EYOP builds on the success of Victoria Police’s partnership with health agencies known as the Police and Clinician Emergency Response (PACER) program, which sees police working alongside mental health clinicians to provide improved outcomes for people experiencing a mental health crisis.
The pilot will operate seven days a week outside of business hours, reflecting the times when police most commonly encounter at-risk young people.
The program’s effectiveness will be evaluated as it is being rolled out. Each site will aim to existing local partnerships and local opportunities.
The evaluation will measure the merits of this approach and determine whether it will continue operating out of these areas, and be rolled out to other metro and regional areas across the state.