Police join forces with youths playing street cricket

Two male police officers with two boys with a ball Officers inspect the taped ball before a game of cricket

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In a community centre in west London, police officers in uniform attempt to bowl out a group of children with a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape.

It is not a scene you see very often - a six-a-side cricket game between young people and the police.

But across London boroughs this is becoming an increasingly familiar picture.

The Metropolitan Police are turning to "street cricket" to help them tackle gangs and crime among young people living in deprived areas of London.

Breaking barriers

The "Peace at the Crease" initiative aims to provide an outlet for youngsters away from the streets and help build trust between police and youths.

On a weekly basis, officers play a special type of cricket called "street20" with young people aged between eight and 18 across 15 London boroughs including Hackney, Lewisham and Hounslow.

The children teach the officers how to play the shortened version of the traditional game, which consists of 20-ball innings.

Through the cricket sessions, the officers are able to discuss issues that may be concerning young people, such as drug abuse or knife and gun crime.

Start Quote

It's great for young people to see the nice side of them police, most of them will only see officers when things are going wrong”

End Quote Sean Herdman Police Community Support Officer

Six-a-side matches using plastic bats and wickets are played anywhere with a flat surface, indoors or out, from community centres to estates and inner-city areas.

A tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape is used in the games, allowing cricket to be played on hard court areas.

'Normal human beings'

Police Community Support Officer Sean Herdman, who regularly attends the sessions, said cricket was a great tool with which to engage with young people.

He said: "When we play cricket with the youngsters, we are on a level playing field, we are one of them.

''It's great for young people to see the nice side of police, most of them will only see officers when things are going wrong.

''Playing cricket together lets them know we are approachable and we are normal human beings.''

The initiative seems to have the approval of many of the kids involved.

Zeeshan Hussain, 12, said he enjoyed playing with the officers.

''It's really fun, we just have a laugh with them, I would go to them if I had a problem because I feel comfortable around them," he said.

Some of the youths said the officers were not what they expected them to be.

''I thought they would be scary or rude but they are not like that at all,'' said Bilal Choudry.

'Discipline and tolerance'

Peace at the Crease is part of a wider project under the urban sport initiative StreetChance which brings cricket to young people from a range of backgrounds in areas affected by youth crime and anti-social behaviour.

Since it was set up in 2008, over 15,000 boys and girls have been involved in the project.

A report by academics from Loughborough University in 2009 concluded that StreetChance was encouraging discipline and tolerance amongst pupils.

Following a pilot in London, the Peace at the Crease initiative is to be rolled out around the country.

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