Stone policeman Andy Whitehall has recently been awarded an MBE for services to young people following the establishment of boxing clubs to curb bad behavior in young people.
His experience in the Staffordshire Police since 1989 inspired him to think of new ways to keep youngsters out of trouble.
His first efforts saw him open a cafe in Stone aptly named the Stone Youth Café, a different kind of recreation centre for young people to meet and stay out of trouble.
His latest project is The Right Stuff Boxing Club. Currently being run in four areas including Stone and Stafford, young people are able to attend and enjoy learning to box in a controlled environment. It also allows them to give back to the community as each of the participants sign up to a good behavior agreement, meaning they have to earn their position in the club by performing tasks like litter picking, gardening and helping the elderly.
While all young people are able to attend the club, social services, parent support workers, youth offence teams and education welfare officers also refer a lot of participants.
Whitehall was thrilled when he received the award, he said: “It is a real honour and a privilege, it is good to see that the program is being recognised.”
He believes that if people in the area get behind the project and continue to refer people, it will lead to a dramatic decrease in youth crime in the area. “I have been in the force for a long time, I have seen the same young faces coming through for re offences for years now, thanks to The Right Stuff, I have had a chance to work more closely with them and have been amazed by the effect that it has had on their lives. Official figures haven’t been released yet, but for me it looks like it will lead to a big decrease in youth crime.”
Parents of young people involved in the club are very happy with the changes they have seen in their community, Janet Cook’s 14 year old son took part in the program and she can’t believe the changes he has made, she said: “Since he started going he is a completely different person, we tried for years to keep him out of trouble but nothing really worked. The Right Stuff gives him something to do and it is something that he enjoys, the responsibilities he has had to take on with the club has changed him completely.”
PC Whitehall says he will continue to help young people in the Staffordshire area by promoting the club. “I can’t stop now, to see the effect it is having on peoples lives and how youth crime is falling as a result, the only way is up.”