Grampian Police 'recruit' baby bobbies
Anyone who thinks the police are looking younger in Peterhead would be right.
A pioneering scheme by Grampian Police has put pupils from six primaries on patrol as part of a new junior community warden scheme. Saturday afternoon shoppers are a bit bemused at the sight of these baby bobbies on the beat in their smart black uniforms and high-visibility vests. The children are on the look-out for any signs of anti-social behaviour and, with black books at the ready, are noting incidents involving litter or vandalism.
The eight recruits won't be performing any arrests or becoming actively involved in incidents - but they're encouraged to have a quiet word with any children dropping litter or engaged in any other anti-social behaviour.
The six-week programme was the brainchild of father-of-three Constable Kevin Forman, community officer for Peterhead. "I read about a similar scheme which happened a couple of years ago, and I wondered if I could do the same for Grampian Police," he says.
"Community wardens help the police in many ways. They are the eyes and ears - looking out for shoplifters or anti-social behaviour in the area. Headteachers think this is an absolutely brilliant idea and they certainly want it to continue."
The project also has enthusiastic backing from parents and the pupils - who were desperately keen to get involved. And the people of Peterhead also seem happy to have such a colourful presence patrolling the town centre. If this pilot is successful, it's hoped to extend it across the Grampian Police area.
The P7s have workbooks to fill out back at the station, and every Saturday for the next six weeks they'll go out on visits to police and fire-service headquarters and hear more about key issues. They'll learn basic first aid, discover the role of mediation and anger management, and hear how alcohol abuse impacts on health and crime in courses devised for their age group.
It's a busy shopping day in Peterhead and the young wardens are taken into several shops to meet the staff who have given their full support. The merchandise in the windows occasionally distracts the girls, though, and a pair of red shoes with four-inch heels momentarily eclipses dreams of being chief constable.
But PC Forman has two daughters and takes this in his stride. After the brief diversion, the girls manage to turn their backs on fashion crime and get back to fighting street crime.
Aberdeenshire Community Safety Partnership has funded this venture, which is designed to promote active citizenship and encourage a sense of civic pride among the children. They represent every primary school in this community - Buchanhaven, Central, Clerkhill, Burnhaven, Dales Park and Meethill.
"Mostly everyone in the class wanted to do it," says Sian Barclay, 11, from Dales Park School.
Those who were picked were the envy of their friends.
"They were a bit jealous because we all wanted to do it," says Melanie Connolly, in P7 at Meethill.
Every so often, locals greet PC Forman and he stops for a few words - among them his mother-in-law Joyce, who ignores his blushes and waves from across the street. Already there may be one or two potential recruits for the force, as the youngsters get a taste of life on the beat. In a few years' time, Morgan Smith, 10, from Buchanhaven School may well be filling out his application form. "I wanted to be a policeman anyway," he says. "Mum thinks it would be good, because I'm trustworthy."
His classmate Andi Adams, 11, is keeping an open mind. "This is my third option - the first is a lawyer, and the second is a professional dancer," she says.
Meanwhile, a couple of the boys have noticed broken windows in some town-centre shops: "I wonder if there's been a robbery," says one, with an eye on fast-track promotion.