A scheme in which police officers give a cuddly toy to young children they meet during their daily patrols has been expanded across the North East.
The Trauma Teddies scheme was launched in September, but was started as a pilot operation that just covered part of Newcastle.
It involves knitted teddy bears being stored in patrol cars of response officers so that they can hand them to young children they meet when responding to incidents, such as road traffic collisions or children who have gone missing.
In the last month, the scheme has received an overwhelming response from communities with more than 100 teddies donated across the force.
Now the decision has been made to expand the pilot forcewide so patrol cars in Gateshead, Sunderland, North Tyneside and Northumberland will all carry Trauma Teddies.
Chief Inspector Clare Langley has overseen the implementation of the scheme in Northern Area Command and said they could be a vital tool to help comfort young children.
“This is a really fantastic scheme that has already had a number of success stories in Newcastle during the pilot.
“It made sense to expand this scheme across the force as in the short time we have been running it, we have found there is clearly an appetite to keep it going.
“Many of the children we come into contact with are scared, frightened and have never had any contact with the police before. Our officers are fantastic at comforting these young children, but giving a child a teddy bear can be the thing that really builds a connection with them.”
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, said: “I very much welcome this initiative to Northumbria. It recognises the effect a traumatic experience can have on a child and such a simple gesture is a step towards making a child’s experience less painful.”
Trauma Teddies were first introduced in Australia in a bid to comfort young children whose families had been left homeless by forest fires. It was then adopted by the Red Cross to comfort young refugees.