The hidden activities of a Safer Schools Officer

Safer Schools Officers (SSOs) in London are required to complete a monthly work return. The following analysis was completed from January – December 2023.

Dealing with crime

A substantial part of the SSO role is crime prevention – reducing and preventing crime in the first place and reducing recidivism. However, that also means SSOs deal with a lot of crime related to their assigned school(s). Due to the nature of Safer School Partnerships (SSPs), SSOs are able to provide good outcomes for young people - 2022 crime analysis showing 96% of suspects aged 10-17 being dealt with by non-punitive methods outside the criminal justice system and just 3.59% of suspects receiving a punitive outcome of ‘Caution – youth’, ‘Charge/Summons Alternate offence’ or ‘Charged/Summonsed’.

The peak ages for criminal activity among school aged children is 14 – 16 years old. Therefore, early intervention and diversion at the younger age range (10-16) is an essential focus to prevent young people from committing crime later in life. Research shows a general youth related crime pattern (Robberies, thefts & theft type offences, and Serious Youth Violence (SVY)) which appears to correlate to terms times throughout the academic year with a pronounced fall in the level of offences during school holidays. While the peaks and troughs vary in volume year on year, the pattern remains consistent. Crime peaks during term time and dips during school holidays. The peak times are between 1500-1700 hours during term time and directly relates to end of school times.

Educational crime prevention

SSOs deliver presentations on a range of subjects, including knife crime, county lines, sexting, hate crime, etc. to deal with emerging issues and provide some level of resilience to potential victims. In 2023, almost 6500 presentations were delivered in London’s schools with clear peaks in delivery in June and November. Presentations during August (the summer holidays) were recorded due to summer camps and events.

Meaningful engagement

SSOs engaged with over 30k young people were engaged with in a meaningful way by SSOs, ranging from 460-2300 per month. Although the summer holidays has the lowest amount of engagement, it shows that SSOs continue to engage with young people during the summer holidays, putting to bed the myth that SSOs have all of the school holidays off. However, peak engagement differs slightly to the number of presentations delivered month on month, showing that more children and young people are engaged with during November and March. This engagement includes activities such as Safety First, Junior Citizens scheme, school health days, drop-in sessions, presentations, etc.

Knives and weapons

SSOs removed 193 knives/weapons from the streets and out of schools as a result of the weapon sweeps and screening operations in London’s schools. It is important to note, SSOs will take part in specific activities to combat knife crime throughout the year which may involve knife amnesty bins, an increase in weapon sweeps or screening arch operations, etc.

Weapon sweeps

Over 6400 weapon sweeps were carried out in and around schools, with peak activity during November and September. This is an important activity to tackle knife carriage, prevent crime and keep young people safe. It is noteworthy that weapon sweeps continued throughout the summer holidays in August.

Screening arch operations

419 screening arch operations were carried out in schools, with peak activity in March and November. Screening arch operations in schools can be a contentious subject, however, screening operations are a useful tool in preventing young people from bringing knives and weapons into the school environment to ensure the safety of the school community.

Volunteer Police Cadets

Assisting with the Volunteer Police Cadets (VPC) or running a Junior VPC unit after school is embedded into the SSO role. In 2023, SSOs spend over 12k hours on VPC activities – Over 4100 on Junior VPC and over 7900 assisting at Senior VPC units, showing that SSOs commit an average of 15 hours to the Junior VPC and over 30 hours supporting Senior VPC units per month. However, there is a peak during the summer holidays when SSOs assist with VPC summer activities.

Junior Citizen Scheme (JCS)

The JCS is a partnership initiative aimed at giving young children in year 6 the skills to deal with a wide range of emergency situations as they transition to Secondary school, and to enable them to make a valued contribution to their local community through good citizenship. Usually, it includes the Police, the Ambulance Service, Fire Brigade, Transport for London, and other local organisations. In 2023, 42 Junior Citizen Scheme (JCS) events were carried out in London. These events run for one to three weeks and require at least 2 Police Officers per day; spanning 388 days (almost 78 weeks) of quality engagement with children.


Steven Sweeney BSc (Hons), MSc

Metropolitan Police Service, Frontline Policing Delivery Unit, Youth Policy Team