Police hope to break down barriers

STUDENTS went head-to-head with police on the pitch in their battle to tackle anti-social behaviour.

The event was aimed at breaking down barriers and fostering good relations between youngsters and community policing teams.

The Hartlepool College of Further Education students took to the pitch for a football and netball match against local Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) at Grayfields.

Organisers hoped the matches would help the PCSOs to improve communication with the 16-19-year-olds, and give the students a greater understanding of the role of their local community support officers.

The event was organised by the students as part of their BTEC Sports Studies coursework while raising funds for local organisation Pathways, a group that helps disabled people become more independent.

Shaun Hope, sports lecturer at Hartlepool College of Further Education, said: "We held this event for the first time last year, and yet again it has proved to be a brilliant day.

"These groups are normally on opposite ends of the spectrum, and can sometimes view each other with suspicion.

"By putting them together on the sports pitch, the barriers were broken down and a lot of good was done for community relations on both sides."

The college selected a team from a squad of 44 male and female footballers, whilst the PCSOs started with a 25-strong team.

A netball tournament ran alongside the football match.

Jackie Donley, Equality and Diversity Manager at the college, said: "This is a fantastic event that we hope will continue to run year after year.

"It shows the close working relationship between the college and the neighbourhood police and the positive work that is taking place to improve not only the college but the local community."

Paul Salter, a PCSO involved in the event, said: "The event was a huge success. It broke down barriers not only on the day, but also afterwards whenever the PCSOs meet with students on the street.

"We hope this success will continue year after year."