We spoke with Caroline Chapman, a police sergeant at Project Gateway about her experience running this scheme.
Tell me a bit about your scheme?
Hampshire Constabulary has grown Project Gateway from its initial idea to a pilot project across the force, that forms part of a randomised control trial being run by Southampton and York University.
Project Gateway is a police out of court disposal for young adults aged between 18-24 years-old, that have committed low level offences and have accepted responsibility for the offence. The intervention is delivered through an adult conditional caution. The caution has 3 conditions:
1. Engage with a Gateway navigator
2. Attend two Linx session
3. Do not reoffend.
The young adult gets allocated a case worker (who is subcontracted from a young person’s charity), and within 3-5 days of receiving the caution they complete their first assessment. This consists of a lifestyle assessment that covers the 7 pathways to recidivism, including education, employment, relationships, finances, health etc. Over the next 16 weeks, the young adult is expected to engage with the Gateway navigator who will support them to stabilise their lives, to lessen the risk of reoffending. Examples of navigator work include assisting the young person in setting up bank accounts, universal credit, job applications, debt advice, liaising with housing and referral into mental health services. Due to this being a pilot project the navigators have scope to use any interventions they feel appropriate for their client. Midway and final assessments are carried out to measure how the young adult is doing.
The Linx course is a 2 session course run by the Hampton Trust, a local charity that works on positive decision making with young adults. Both parts must be completed.
On completion of Gateway, the young person receives an adult caution. If they breach the condition, they may be sent to court for the original offence.
Can you give any advice to forces starting up a new scheme?
The first advice would be to visit other schemes, see how they work and what worked best for them. Borrow with pride, we are all working towards the same goal!
Train, train, train! Police officers are notorious for not wanting change. Getting your project out there and known is crucial. Just getting officers to remember to offer the project can be tricky. We know there are always a million different things for officers to think about and although your project is top of your list it is not necessarily top of theirs. Movement of staff is an issue, I have found that a majority of staff I have trained over the last couple of years have moved around, more staff have moved in and now need retraining.
Keeping on top of training needs can be difficult across the force; although a positive of the pandemic was moving my training online using Microsoft Teams, which means I could train more officers without leaving the office. Putting up posters and physical reminders such screen savers keeps Gateway in mind. Also, getting the navigators to feed back to the officers originally in charge of the case that dealt with the young person gives them an idea of what the intervention involves as they do not necessarily get to see it.
Winning over the hearts and minds of the ‘lock them up and throw away the key officers’ is crucial. It is important to sell your project and explain the aims - how is improving the lives of the young adult, going to improve the life of that officer that arrested them? Less crime equals less work? It is not a short term win but it will be in the long run.
Can you give an example of successes or challenges you've experienced with your scheme?
One of the biggest challenges is winning over the hearts and minds of officers, so that they engage with the project. Especially when we take on young adults whose offence is assaulting an emergency worker.
We dealt with a young male who was a habitual caller to the police. He was found on the train tracks and had suicidal ideations. He received a Gateway caution for trespass and worked with a navigator for the next 16 weeks. In this time, we were able to get him back into employment and his mental health improved significantly. We reported back to the officers that had arrested him, who had also noticed that he was no longer calling police. One of those officers was then assaulted by another young male, who went on to receive a Gateway caution. The officer explained that he understood why and the positives that it would have on the male who was in crisis. Had he not experienced and seen the effect of Gateway on the previous young man, he said he would have felt Gateway was just ‘an easy way out’.
The young man found on the train tracks did go on to commit a low level offence around 6 months after his caution. On arrival in custody he spoke to the officer in the case and said how disappointed he was with himself for losing his temper. We know that this can happen but the difference this time was that his mind set was completely different and far more positive. He attributed that to Gateway. His case went to court but he accepted responsibility for what he had done wrong and knew that there would be consequences.
These experiences were highly positive for both the participants and officers.