Essex Police in school bus crackdown

POLICE officers are riding on school bus journeys in Essex as part of a crackdown on unruly youngsters.

James Hore

POLICE officers are riding on school bus journeys in Essex as part of a crackdown on unruly youngsters.

The Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) are assisting drivers who suffer from antisocial behaviour during trips in a bid to make the journeys safer.

The move comes as it emerged youngsters in Colchester have been putting their lives at risk and passengers in danger by switching off bus engines by using the emergency stop buttons on the outside of the vehicles.

Officers are travelling on buses at the request of head teachers or the county council as part of the Essex-wide scheme.

And CCTV cameras have also been fitted to secondary school buses in the county, including those serving Thomas Lord Audley in Colchester, The Plume School in Maldon and Helena Romanes in Great Dunmow.

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The move is part of the county council's “Respect - It's Up 2 U” campaign.

Police and PCSOs can either ride on school buses in response to problems at the request of the county council or simply on an ad hoc basis by using their warrant cards.

Simon Walsh, the county councillor in charge of schools, children and families, said the project had been achieving good results.

He said: “The presence of the PCSOs has been a welcome support for drivers while also giving young people the opportunity to engage with the police.

“Until the 'Respect' campaign the county's approach to anti-social behaviour on school transport was reactionary.

“The campaign has seen that emphasis shift to one where we are aiming to prevent issues developing or nip them in the bud before they get out of hand.

“Although anti-social behaviour is not as bad in Essex as it is elsewhere in the UK this is no reason to sit back and rest on our laurels.”

He said the Respect campaign re-emphasised the council's commitment to make the county an even safer place to live.

And Sgt Dean Chapple of Essex Police said: “This is yet another example of partnership working to achieve a safer neighbourhood.

“Allowing PCSOs and police officers to travel on buses across the county will give us further opportunities to engage with young people as well as address unacceptable behaviour and ensure travelling to and from schools is safe and enjoyable.”

Jody Greenfield, a crime reduction officer, said: “Since the introduction of CCTV cameras on buses we have seen a reduction in reported incidents of criminal damage and anti-social behaviour.”

Essex County Council expects to be able to expand the CCTV provision to eight more secondary schools in September.

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