Community groups have been celebrating the work they do to help reduce crime.
The groups have all been given funding for their work by the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI), which was set up by Northamptonshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds and is the first of its type in the country.
Mr Simmonds set up the OFBCI in January 2014 to examine and support, through funding, how faith-based and community organisations can enhance their contribution to helping to prevent crime within Northamptonshire.
Over the past 12 months the OFBCI has invested in 17 initiatives that have worked towards reducing substance misuse, anti-social behaviour, violence, and improving community safety and victim support.
Among the initiatives that have received funding are Corby Street Pastors; the Hope Project on the Hemmingwell estate in Wellingborough and the Full Gospel Church’s House of Recovery support programme in Rushden.
Mr Simmonds said: “Faith-based and community initiatives have extensive reach into their communities. They have networks of volunteers and resources.
“They are the people in the communities that we serve and are key players in community safety.
“Working closer with these organisations enables them and us to tackle crime better and create safer communities.
“The work of this office isn’t exclusively about faith. It is about any community group or initiative that we can support, whether that is with funding or advice, to move them closer towards a safer community.”
Helen Boardman, director of the OFBCI, said: “Faith-based and community leaders are champions of public safety, they are an invaluable asset to our county and we need to work alongside them to harness their experience.
“The OFBCI wants to capitalise on these valuable and unique contributions so that together we can create innovative approaches to helping Northamptonshire to become the safest place in England.”
The OFBCI has a budget of £70,000, which is funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, and Mr Simmonds said he would like to see this increase to £500,000 and the initiative to become a 25-year project.
The idea of the OFBCI was criticised when it was first suggested by Mr Simmonds in 2013.
Famous atheist Professor Richard Dawkins said at the time: “What is so special about religious ‘communities’ that they need, or deserve, a special liaison officer, any more than the rest of us?”