'Smiles all around' - Russell leaves lasting impression as cops visit vulnerable teenagers preparing to leave home for first time
23 Oct | 12:45

Cops discussed vulnerability, exploitation and community safety as the students prepare to make the big step towards independent living

Vulnerable teenagers have been told the police are on their side as they take get set to move away from home for the first time.

On Friday, PC Louise Turnbull and PC Sally College visited Sunderland-based Springboard Futures which provides education and training to teenagers with autism, disabilities or additional needs.

The two cops delivered crime prevention advice to the youngsters, who receive personalised programmes and support from the Southwick charity in a bid to help them make the transition to adulthood.

As part of the visit, officers also discussed issues of vulnerability, exploitation and community safety as the students prepare to make the big step towards living independently and becoming employed.

But they weren’t alone as Cocker Spaniel Russell, who became Northumbria Police’s first community dog in 2018 following his retirement as an explosive detection dog, also came along to help the officers speak to and build relationships with the students.

And the adorable four-legged friend was given a warm welcome as the youngsters made Russell a personalised dog bed which he can use on future visits.

PC College, who works with the Community Engagement Team in Sunderland and South Shields and takes Russell with her to various groups across the region, said: “It was a fantastic day and it was great to meet with the students who were so enthusiastic.

“We work with so many different people and groups across Southern Area Command and sometimes people can find it hard to talk to police officers, especially if it is the first time they’ve had that experience.

“That’s why the introduction of Russell, taking him out with us in the community over the last 12 months, has been hugely successful and he has helped us build relationships with so many different people and groups.

“Russell had a great time visiting Springboard Futures and loved his new personalised bed, not to mention all the extra strokes. We look forward to working closely with the charity moving forward to help those who are preparing to take the step towards adulthood and the challenges that can bring.”

PC Turnbull, neighbourhood beat manager for the area, added: “It is so important that we reach out to all groups in our community, so when we were contacted by Springboard Futures to come in and chat to the students, we jumped at the opportunity.

“We had a great session where we discussed issues which affect the students, and importantly they told us about how we can best help them. The students were so enthusiastic and we discussed how we can work together in the future."

Paul Colborn, who works for Springboard Futures, thanked the officers for giving up their time to help the students.

He said: “The officers put the students at ease and discussed a wide range of community safety issues.

“The students gave a lot of thought about issues affecting them and what help they needed, and it was a great input which was greatly appreciated by all. We are already planning on how we can work with Northumbria Police in the future.”

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