A new initiative has been launched by the PSNI to help tackle bullying in schools across Northern Ireland. The scheme has been created in an effort to reduce crime against children, including the theft of mobile phones and MP3 players and was launched to coincide with the new school year.
Superintendent Nigel Kyle explained that statistics show that while the vast majority of children do not encounter any problems, some children can be vulnerable during the first two months of the school year when crime against children tends to rise.
He said: "The start of the school year can be a difficult time and having identified that crime is a problem facing a small proportion of our schoolchildren it is important that we take steps to prevent incidents from taking place.
"While most of the crimes against children are carried out by other children, no one should ever underestimate the hurt felt by victims.
"In previous years we have even received reports of children being robbed of their possessions. Some have been forced to hand over expensive items such as mobile phones and MP3 players, while others have been stopped and made to hand over small sums of money.
"Our advice to young people would be to minimise the risk by leaving valuable items safe at home.
"This type of crime can cause great distress and it cannot simply be dismissed as being the law of the school playground. Indeed, analysis shows us that the vast majority of these incidents occur away from the schools."
Superintendent Kyle stressed that tackling crime against schoolchildren remains a high priority for the PSNI, and referred to the growing 'happy slapping' phenomenon.
"The use of mobile phones and websites to bully, intimidate and threaten individuals or to organise or publicise fights, is most abhorrent and we will take a very dim view of anyone who uses modern technology for such purposes," he said.
"It is time to turn the tables on those who carry out this type of crime. Suffering in silence is not acceptable and is not something that victims should even consider. I recognise that it takes courage to stand up against bullies but I want every school pupil to know that help is available and that our youth diversion officers will listen to what they say, and will take appropriate action where deemed necessary."
He also revealed that with the start of the school year, police patrols will be paying particular attention to areas where young people are known to frequent in a determined effort to reduce the incidence of youth crime.
Meanwhile, spokesperson for Ballymena's Safer School Travel Partnership, Toni Bradley - from the North Eastern Education and Library Board - welcomed the initiative: "This is an important contribution to the strategy we as a Partnership have employed to ensure the safety of young people on their way to and from school.
"Increased police patrols are extremely effective in reducing fear of crime among both young people and their parents."
?Anyone requiring any further information about the Safer School Travel Partnership should contact Ballymena Community Safety Partnership on 028 2563 3930.