A pioneering gang prevention programme which aims to give organised crime the boot has been launched in West Yorkshire.

The Get Away ‘N’ Get Safe Gangs Prevention Programme, which aims to steer more than 1,000 primary school children across West Yorkshire away from a life of crime, saw the first two sets of children awarded certificates at Newsome Junior School in Newsome.

Get Away ‘N’ Get Safe was created by James Riley who spent more than 18 years working as a probation officer specialising in gangs in Merseyside.

James took his message to Newsome Junior School – the first of the schools he will be delivering his programme to over the coming weeks and months.

His aim is simple: “I want to educate, inspire and empower young people to take control of their future by rejecting the gang lifestyle.

“In my former role I spoke to a number of young people who at an early age had taken the wrong path in life and got involved in guns, drugs and gangs.

“They were often lacking role models in their lives and got involved with people they shouldn’t – many of them told me they would have welcomed such an opportunity to steer them away from the wrong people.

“There are cases where children have been given a bag to look after for a “friend” but then find that, unwittingly, they have been looking after guns and or drugs and the first they know about it when they are arrested.

“Without a role model they often have nowhere to turn.

“And that’s my ultimate aim – to show children that there is an alternative. At the start of my input I ask the group a simple question: “What are you if you tell the police about a crime?” The answer is often “A grass”

“By the end of my input I ask the same question and the answer is: “A hero.” ”

James has already delivered his programme in Merseyside, working with schools in that area.

The programme has been jointly funded by West Yorkshire Police’s POCA (Proceeds of Crime Act) fund which takes money away from criminals and reinvests it back into positive community projects and money from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Partnership Executive Group (PEG) funding pot to help partners to tackle policing and community safety issues.

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Mrs Jacquie Hall, Federation Headteacher for Berry Brow and Newsome Junior, said: “I was initially worried about bringing this subject into school with children who are still emotionally quite naive but who believe themselves to be worldly wise. After the first session with James I became so aware of how necessary this work is while the children are still young and impressionable. I’ve realised how important it is that we bring this information to the children at this point in their lives so that they have the truth about the danger of getting involved in gangs and how, armed with the facts, they can make the right choices at the right time in their lives. James’ delivery of this very hard-hitting and controversial topic was superb.”

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I think initiatives such as these are crucial in ensuring young people are given the support and encouragement to make the right choices and I’m really pleased to be able to secure funding to ensure the programme is rolled out to various schools across the district.

“The presentation that James gives is both powerful and informative, and if this work can steer just one person away from a life of crime then it has been successful.”