Questions are being asked about the deployment and effectiveness of police officers in schools after an analysis apparently revealed no relationship between the number of Safer Schools Officers (SSOs) in London boroughs and any local reduction in youth offending.
The number of SSOs varies drastically from borough to borough, with Islington, Camden, Merton, and Barking and Dagenham the only local authority areas in London with at least one such officer available per state-funded school.
By contrast, in Hammersmith and Fulham there is one SSO for every five local state schools, and the same is true in Kensington and Chelsea. In fact, the rate in these boroughs is just 0.17 officers per school.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan suggested last week during People’s Question Time that he would expand the use of SSOs and “make sure every school in London has a police officer linked with that school”.
Green Party Assembly Member Sian Berry examined changes in rates of youth offending since 2011 and said this data showed no significant relationship with the use of SSOs.
She said: “The good news is that youth offences are down over the past four years, but the data I have obtained shows Safer Schools Officers are scattered inconsistently across London and the number deployed seems to bear no relation to local rates of youth offending.
“The Mayor has said he wants police officers in every school. I am worried this will use up resources when there is no convincing evidence they have a genuine effect on youth offending.
“Before London commits to this increase, we should think carefully whether police officers are the best option for talking to young people about issues that may lead to crime, and whether there are more effective ways of keeping rates of youth offending down, such as funding youth workers and services.”
Safer Schools Officers were launched nationally in 2002, with guidance stating they were aimed at prevention, with the goals of the programme including to “reduce victimisation, criminality and anti-social behaviour within the school and its community’ and to achieve ‘early identification, support and challenge of pupils at risk of offending”.