Open letter to parents, carers and guardians from ACC Deb Smith
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For many children and young people, the summer holidays are an exciting time of year and one that often brings with it new adventures, discoveries and memories. After the Covid pandemic and all the restrictions put in place, it is more important than ever that our children are given this downtime.
It is vital that young people have the opportunity to explore and have fun with their friends, but they also need to be aware of when adventure and risk crosses the line into crime.
Annually during the summer months, Wiltshire Police see an increase in crime linked to and involving young people. This ranges from anti-social behaviour, cyber-related crime such as sharing inappropriate or explicit images – what we refer to as sexting and incidents involving offensive weapons.
I am a parent myself and I fully understand the challenges of wanting to protect our children but at the same time giving them the space and freedom to grow and learn, especially during the teenage years.
We cannot always watch them or know exactly what they are doing at every minute of the day, which is why having a conversation is so important.
Where are your children? Do you know what’s in their bag? Who are they talking to online? What are they looking at online?
We also need to educate our children and young people about their risk of becoming vulnerable to crime - how they can stay safe and how they can take appropriate steps to report crime when required.
I fully appreciate that sometimes the understanding around what is classed as anti-social behaviour or the consequences of receiving inappropriate or explicit content online, might not be fully understood. This makes it even more crucial that we speak with our children, spark an honest discussion, listen to them and make sure that they feel safe to take appropriate action if necessary.
There are some great organisations out there who can support you with how to start these difficult conversations with your children. The NSPCC, Crimestoppers, Fearless and The Ben Kinsella Trust are all great places to start.
Please remember, we will always be here for you when you need us the most. As part of our summer demand campaign we are asking our communities to start their journey with us online to reduce the demand on our staff.
You can find lots of information about the work we do with young people and more about our demand campaign and the best ways to contact us via our website.
ACC Deb Smith