Keeping kids on the straight and narrow
Students are back at university, and some need a briefing on the hazards awaiting them in the big city.
Community liaison officer at North Melbourne Police Station, Detective Nick Parissis, is on the job.
He’s just been to Unilodge to give newcomers a few tips on how to survive.
“They’re country kids and they could be vulnerable. Some are 16 and 17,” he said. “They leave doors open and could be drinking.”
North Melbourne Police Station covers North Melbourne, Parkville, Kensington and Carlton and there are plenty of opportunities for keeping kids on the straight and narrow.
Nick is a local, having gone to Carlton South Primary School and he visits the school twice a month in a normal year to make his presence felt.
His next job will be to take a group of 22 Grade Five and Six kids from the school and one in Kensington on camp.
“Every year I say this will be the last,” he joked. The kids stay up late and get up early but the camps have been going for 13 years and there’s a waiting list so he must be doing something right.
He doesn’t go as far as pitching a tent, but he does spend three days on outdoor activities and teaching them about the role of the police.
The aim is to keep kids on the right path as they go through important transitions such as the moves to secondary and tertiary education.
“I have a connection with the community,” Nick said. “Some of the kids I work with need support. They need face-to-face. During the lockdown that wasn’t possible. It was an issue. We couldn’t engage with kids.”
He said he did Zoom meetings, but it wasn’t the same. “It sort of changed. We had to all of a sudden change how we did things. We couldn’t do face-to-face. Sometimes I feel the message wasn’t getting through.”
During the lockdown, Nick joined others to attend demonstrations and walk the streets. The dynamics of Friday and Saturday night policing changed.
“We didn’t have a program for it,” Nick said. “We evolved as the community evolved. A lot of people were really struggling because of the lockdowns. We might have been the only people they spoke to.”
He said it was also tougher policing because they stood out. “There were less people for us to blend in with, less people on the road.”
He’s glad to be back in his normal job but has greater understanding of people’s problems. Police haven’t seen the surge in crime they expected so that’s something positive to come out of the lockdown.
Communication skills are at the heart of his job, Nick said. “It’s the number one thing they teach you, communications with children through to the elderly.”
You had to assess quickly if a person was a “yes” person, he said. “If you pull over a motorist, they might be a ‘maybe’ person or a ‘no’ person. You have to be able to communicate.”
His aim is to give North Melbourne Police Station a friendlier face by planting some flowers in the planter boxes outside.
“I’ll have to get the night patrol to water then when I’m away,” he said •