SCHOOL pupils were handed disposable cameras and asked to take photos of what they thought was good and bad in their area.
The results were analysed and culminated in the children joining police officers, Durham Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Ron Hogg and Darlington MP Jenny Chapman on a litter pick.
The initiative is part of a pilot project launched by Durham Constabulary in Darlington and Seaham which aims to get residents more involved in the well-being of their communities.
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Officers from beat teams in both areas have undergone training in such areas as hosting focus groups which encourage locals to help police identify and tackle problems.
Weekly pact meetings – police and communities together – are already held across the force area but future elements of the programme will include police working with residents on local budgets - where they can vote on which community organisations they think should win funding.
In Darlington the Northgate ward is the first to benefit from the engagement programme.
So far it has involved officers meeting with community representatives to learn how they feel about their area.
Sgt Daryl Edmunds of Darlington Police praised the enthusiasm of the pupils, from Corporation Road Primary School, who joined the litter pick.
Explaining the ethos behind the engagement programme, he added: "We want people to tell us three main things; what is good about their area, what can we do better, and who can help."
He added that the Northgate ward was chosen as it has one of the most diverse communities in County Durham, but the engagement programme is expected to be rolled out across the whole force area.
PCC Ron Hogg said the attitude of the children who worked with the police on the project was “tremendous”.
“We want to get communities involved in taking greater responsibility for their area," he added.
“And what we found is that it actually increases community confidence.
“The youngsters were tremendous; their enthusiasm was absolutely fantastic and if we can keep that up it will make the area better for everyone into the future.”
An engagement event for the Northgate ward takes place at Corporation Road Primary School on June 21 from 11am. All residents are invited.