A pioneering project using football to tackle anti-social behaviour in two deprived areas of Wrexham has been given a major boost – thanks to cash confiscated from crooks.
The Racecourse Community Foundation – the charity arm of Wrexham FC – plans to run regular Friday night turn up-and-play soccer sessions for 16-25 year olds from Acrefair and Plas Madoc.
And to help kick it off, the Night Strikers scheme has been awarded £2,500 from a special fund.
The money was jointly presented by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, a lifelong football fan and Wrexham supporter, and Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard.
The Your Community, Your Choice initiative is also supported by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT).
Much of the money was recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act, using cash seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner.
The grant for Night Strikers is one of 15 totalling over £40,000 given to support schemes by community organisations with an online vote deciding the successful applicants and almost 10,000 votes cast.
A key aspect of the Foundation’s strategy is the use of football as a vehicle to bring about positive change with the local community.
Currently the project runs a number of activities aimed at increasing physical activity, improving health and wellbeing, improving literacy and numeracy standards, educating participants on diet, smoking, drugs and alcohol.
During the Your Community, Your Choice presentation ceremony at North Wales Police headquarters in Colwyn Bay the Foundation’s business manager Matthew Jones said: “We’ll use the funding to run a project that uses football to tackle anti-social behaviour, drinking, drug abuse, arson and crime in two areas that suffer from these problems, Acrefair and Plas Madoc.
“The plan is to set-up football sessions at a local leisure centre on Friday evenings between 7pm-9pm, during the peak hours when anti-social behaviour becomes most prevalent.
“The sessions will be open to all 16-25 year olds – boys and girls – and will be free. The project will work closely with the local police officers and Police Community Support Officers to ensure that those taking part are not getting into trouble away from the football sessions.
“If they do so they can be suspended from participating in future, which is aimed at discouraging young people from being involved in any criminal activity.
“Football is a powerful tool in influencing behaviour and that’s why we have decided to use it and this project simply couldn’t go ahead without this funding from Your Community, Your Choice.”
Wrexham County’s other successful project, which received a grant of £2,500, was Recovery in Action masterminded by CAIS, the drug and alcohol rehabilitation service.
Members of Recovery in Action Group at Champions House, the Grove Park Road based centre for people who have suffered from drug and alcohol addiction, recently teamed up with Keep Wales Tidy, North Wales Police, Wrexham County Borough Council and the wider community to carry out a clean-up of Rhosddu Park.
Recovery in Action project manager Elen Richards said: “The clean-up significantly improved the area and also empowered the community by demonstrating what a difference they can make and how quickly.
“This funding will enable the group to deliver a more comprehensive and targeted training programme to people who have already shown a commitment to help Wrexham and themselves.
“This will lead to further community led initiatives, will make a difference to Wrexham, and will significantly increase the employability of people in recovery.”
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, who jointly presented the awards with Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard, said: “I was delighted when I took office this year that I was able to continue the good work of the Your Community, Your Choice fund and support community projects across North Wales.
“This unique fund allows our communities to decide which projects should get financial support, and I would like to thank all of this year applicants who submitted innovative and interesting projects, and for the public for taking part in the decision-making through our on-line voting system.
“This year 29 projects went forward to the public vote and almost 10,000 votes were cast and that response demonstrated to me that communities can work together to make our public places safer.
“Community groups such as yours are vital to the citizens of north Wales and in helping to ensure that our communities continue to be some of the safest places to live, work and visit in the UK.”
Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard said: “The funding which you have received has been made available by the Police and Crime Commissioner and through assets seized from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
“This is a particularly vital message as, through the professionalism of North Wales Police Officers and with the support of the Courts, we are able to hit the criminals where it hurts – in their pockets.
“Operation Scorpion aims to target all types of serious crime and to date it has recovered £1.3m worth of cash and assets and almost £300,000 worth of illegal drugs and ensured that 87 criminals are spending over 350 years behind bars.
“Money confiscated from these criminals is now helping to support communities such as yours.
“Every day our work involves working closely with communities and organisations across the whole of North Wales, and it is vital that these strong ties and links continue so that we can continue to make North Wales a safer place.”
PACT chairman David Williams added: “We are delighted that we can assist in the administration of this fund.
“I think the breadth of our grant giving right across North Wales, from the tip of the west to the furthest part of the east, really sends a strong message to communities to access this money, it’s there for them.
“Very appropriately, one of the conditions is that the people who apply for this money have to be doing something that combats anti-social behaviour or addresses crime and disorder in some way.
“The aims Your Community, Your Choice scheme also coincide with the objectives of the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan so it creates a virtuous circle.”