In the middle - Turn gumshoe to tackle graffiti

10th October 2008 at 01:00
I once worked with a deputy head who could track graffiti back to the culprit; find a stolen Pounds 5 note (once in a boy's sock, I recall); and interrogate a child so skilfully that they would willingly confessed all to him before seeking an apology for the heinous nature of their crime. His performance as bad cop, playing to my good cop, was awe-inspiring.

We worked together once on a nasty assault case with the local community officer. At the end of my interview with the police, Steve asked: "Could you make a note of the name of the officer, please, Di?" I had been so involved with the interview that I had neglected to note either the officer's name or collar number. It is, of course, much easier to contact people armed with these details. Lesson learnt.

He also talked me through the principle that we should work with the police on investigations, but that in nearly all cases we should ensure parents are kept informed and pupils are never interviewed without a parent or teacher present.

On more mundane crimes, such as graffiti, Steve recommended immediate action. However busy you are when graffiti is reported, get a photograph of the offending marks, then ask site staff to remove it immediately. This should prevent retaliatory responses. Distribute the photograph to key people in your behaviour network; heads of year are often the best, but you may have teachers who know the talk on the corridors and could contribute various leads. English teachers are often a good source of information - they know pupils' idiosyncratic scrawls and can therefore identify a particular whorl or character in the handwriting.

Perhaps other teachers have cunning investigatory techniques to share? It would be good to hear from you, as all too frequently pupils suffer from vandalised facilities, or horrid abuse, because we are unable to track down a culprit.

Di Beddow, Deputy headteacher of Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

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