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Nottinghamshire Police wildlife crime team guide young offenders onto better path with sessions at Hill Holt Wood, near Newark

A wildlife crime sergeant who led a programme that successfully rehabilitated youngsters involved in anti-social behaviour has scooped an award.

Sergeant Rob Harrison is the lead officer responsible for Operation Swift – an initiative created by his team of neighbourhood officers.

Based just outside Newark at Hill Holt Wood, the initiative is designed to rehabilitate and re-educate young people involved in anti-social behaviour — specifically within rural settings and against wildlife.

Community engagement wildlife walks in Hill Holt Wood near Newark. Photo: Nottinghamshire Police.
Community engagement wildlife walks in Hill Holt Wood near Newark. Photo: Nottinghamshire Police.

Sergeant Harrison and his team formed the idea in response to increasing issues with rising crime in green spaces around the Newark and Sherwood district, which included birds being catapulted and killed around Balderton Lake, arson, graffiti and other criminal offending.

Having successfully applied for funding for Operation Swift from Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, he contacted Hill Holt Wood and pioneered a four-hour programme, which has seen more than 50 young people, aged 10-18, enrolled into the re-education scheme.

Sergeant Harrison and his officers have also visited local primary schools and invited pupils to workshops and visits to the project.

The scheme is intended to create a sense of shared ownership in the district’s green spaces, allow those not necessarily regularly exposed to rural settings to appreciate, and develop an understanding of how their actions impact upon, them, and prevent young people from being criminalised for behaviour which can be corrected outside the criminal justice system.

To date, none of the youths who have been through the Operation Swift programme have reoffended.

Sergeant Rob Harrison. Photo: Nottinghamshire Police.
Sergeant Rob Harrison. Photo: Nottinghamshire Police.

At the National Rural and Wildlife Crime Conference in Staffordshire in October 2023, Sgt Harrison brought Operation Swift to a national audience via a PowerPoint presentation. Up to a dozen other forces are now looking to use his template to recreate the scheme in their respective force areas.

The success of the programme led to Sergeant Harrison winning the Community Engagement award at this year’s Nottinghamshire Police Force Awards, held on May 7 and 8 - and he dedicated the award to his team of officers.

Chief Inspector Clive Collings, who submitted the nomination, said he had been impressed by Sergeant Harrison’s dedication to public service.

He said: “Rob is a first rate officer who leads by example. His team has the utmost respect for him because he embodies the force’s core values of compassion and integrity.

“Furthermore, he demonstrates, through his daily internal and external interactions, the boundless pride and satisfaction he takes from being a public servant.

“His enthusiasm, innovative and problem solving mind, upbeat attitude make him a delight to work alongside and a credit to the force, both as a community-based officer and a leader.

“He displays great emotional intelligence and professionalism as a leader of people, and commendable determination to build trust and confidence within his communities.

“He is a proven problem solver and manages to perform at a consistent level while being an incredibly kind, considerate and humble officer, whose primary objectives every time he dons his uniform are to fight crime, protect the vulnerable and ensure our communities feel safe and listened to.”

Sergeant Harrison said his team deserved all the credit for the initiative’s success. He said: “I am absolutely humbled to receive this award but full credit must go to my team, who have worked so hard in getting this operation to where it is now.

“Operation Swift embodies what neighbourhood policing is all about, with engagement and diversion at its heart. It not only averts misery and helps prevents future serious offending, but goes further by educating and changing perceptions around crime and antisocial behaviour – giving the youth of our communities a chance to make a positive impact.

“We are determined to continue with the operation and supporting other areas in Nottinghamshire and beyond in achieving the success we have had so far.”

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