A POLICE officer has been appointed to work in St Albans secondary schools in a bid to combat youth crime.

The Youth Crime Reduction Officer has been visiting schools to gather intelligence, and develop ways of beating crime, truancy and drugs.

PC Paul Allen is working in schools across the district with pupils who risk ending up on the wrong side of the law.

He is also involved in developing acceptable behaviour contracts and anti–social behaviour orders for youths.

He said: “My job is to work within schools and get to know the small percentage of pupils from various schools who are behaving anti–socially or acting criminally.

“Their behaviour outside the school gates has a knock–on effect on the local community which often they don’t realise.” The officer recently spoke to children about their behaviour on buses following complaints from members of the public.

He also intervened when a pupil caused £500 worth of damage to a piano at his school.

The pupil was excluded from school for three days, leaving a mark on his school record, after speaking to the police officer about the consequences of his actions.

PC Allen said: “A common perception among pupils is that damage or bullying is not a criminal offence.

“Often by just explaining the consequences and the fact that their actions are criminal is enough to curb their behaviour.” The police officer claims many youngsters do not realise when they are breaking the law and believes that early intervention is essential.

He aims to teach teenagers about the criminal consequences of harassment, assault, criminal damage, drug offences, theft, malicious communication and counterfeiting offences.

Pupils at one school were recently found using a counterfeit £10 note.

PC Allen said: “They were using the fake money as a joke and didn’t realise it would have been a criminal offence if they had handed it over.” On another occasion a 17–year–old boy was caught “happy slapping” – a fad which involves hitting an innocent victim around the face and capturing it on camera using a mobile phone.

Another boy was arrested on charges of robbery after the police officer identified him at his school.

Head of Francis Bacon School, Jacqui Verall, voiced her support for the youth crime initiative. She said: “Paul has supported us in a positive way by helping us deal with children who bring their anxieties and baggage into school by being anti–social or on the brink of crime.

“He makes children reflect on their behaviour and informs them about the bad choices they are making so that we can concentrate on educating them.

“The poor behaviour of a minority of pupils puts great demands on the school, but by working together we can help reduce criminal and anti–social behaviour.”