• 26 young people were treated to a day out at the Emirates Stadium

  • They were invited as part of an initiative to tackle gang and violent crime

  • The attendees had a football coaching session and stadium tour

On Tuesday 11 November young people from across Hertfordshire were invited to an aspirational day at Arsenal Football Club.

The 26 teenagers, who are potentially at risk from gangs, violent crime and/or exclusion from school, visited Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in London for the event, which was arranged by Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Gangs and Schools team in partnership with Hertsmere Borough Council.

The event was hosted by ‘Arsenal in the Community’ and forms part of the Gangs and Schools team’s ongoing work to provide positive engagement activities and opportunities to young people at risk of criminal exploitation.

During their visit the attendees got to take part in some structured football coaching sessions and workshops with speakers who have experienced the reality of prison. They were also given a tour of the stadium.

Sergeant Helen Croughton from the Gangs and Schools team said: “This was a fantastic experience/ opportunity for our young people, some of whom have never left their home town before, so opportunities like this are key in raising their aspirations. The individuals we are working with on a daily basis are at risk of criminal exploitation and we believe that early intervention is key in preventing them from entering or progressing further into the criminal justice system.

“During the event they got to play football with coaching from Arsenal staff. They also received personalised feedback from the team at Arsenal in the Community and the charity Achievement through Football, which was an extremely positive experience for our young people.

“Those who came along really were a credit to themselves. They came as a group of individuals who did not know each other, but once the football began there was fantastic team work and peer encouragement along with 100 per cent effort and commitment. Our team are always looking for positive opportunities for the young people that we work with, and we would like to thank Arsenal in the Community, Achievement through Football and Hertsmere Borough Council for organising this event for us.”

Jack Ironside, from the Arsenal in the Community, said: “It’s important that young people have safe spaces to spend their time after school or college. Proving them with free, regular activity gives them additional structure in their weekly routine and a sense of belonging.

“Through football we are able to engage with young people, build trust and support their personal development off the pitch through a wide range of opportunities.”

Community Sports Officer at Hertsmere Borough Council, Helen Hopkins, said: “Thank you to Arsenal for hosting this amazing and inspiring event at their stadium. To see the young people grow in confidence and have a potentially life changing experience was brilliant. Thank you also to the young people who gave up their time to share their life stories and referee the games.

“This is the first event of its kind which we’ve been involved with and we hope that through our long-standing community sports partnership with Arsenal and strong links with Herts Police’s Children and young people gangs and schools team, further events like this can be held again.”

The Gangs and Schools team will be running events throughout the year, details of which will be shared via their Twitter channel: @HertsCYP.

Be on the look-out for warning signs that could suggest a child may be involved in gang activity:

  • A child or young person going missing from school or home
  • Significant changes in emotional well-being or significant decline in school results/performance
  • The use of drugs and alcohol
  • A young person meeting unfamiliar adults or a change to their behaviour
  • Relationships with controlling or older individuals or associated with gangs
  • Receiving excessive amounts of texts or phone calls and/or having multiple mobile phone handsets
  • Acquiring money or expensive gifts they can’t account for
  • Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
  • Becoming isolated from peers or social networks
  • Carrying weapons

If you have any concerns about a young person displaying some of these signs you can report information online at: herts.police.uk/report or speak to an operator in our Force Communications Room via web chat here: herts.police.uk/contact

You can also call the non-emergency number 101, and ask for Herts Police.

Alternatively, you can stay 100% anonymous by contacting the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their untraceable online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

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