Community facilities across Derbyshire have shared almost £115k towards vital repair and restoration work under a scheme which pumps the ill-gotten gains of criminals back into crime prevention.
Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa allocated individual grants of up to £25,000 to sports clubs and community assets to improve local life and increase participation in community-run projects as part of his NICE (Neighbourhoods Investing Criminal Earnings) Fund.
The fund was launched to provide one-off financial support to community capital projects which leave a lasting legacy on their communities and help to deter crime.
The funding represents a proportion of the total income confiscated from criminals in Derbyshire over the past 12 months under the Proceeds of Crime Act. This legislation allows police officers to seize cash and recover assets and property which have been bought by criminals with their illegal profits and includes property, cars and jewellery.
Mr Dhindsa said: "Criminal activity ruins lives and communities and it is entirely justified that the money seized from offending is reinvested back into our neighbourhoods to discourage young people from making the same mistakes.
"These grants help to protect much-loved community facilities for future generations, encourage communities to come together and celebrate diversity and increase the opportunities available for young and vulnerable people, helping to channel their energy in positive ways.
"The competition for funding remains tough and it is difficult to choose between all the projects which apply for funding. For those who were unsuccessful, there are other grant schemes available throughout the year and I would advise visiting my website for further information."
The NICE Fund is additional to the £250,000 the PCC invests annually into grassroots crime prevention as part of his Community Safety Fund.
Successful projects include Fearons Boxing Academy which received £25,000 towards the costs of renovating the gym, including new sanitary ware, shower units and toilets, to increase capacity and allow families to train together. The funding means the academy can support additional groups including people with a disability and develop an after-school club to support children who have been excluded from school with English, maths, ICT and a recognised fitness qualification. The gym also helps to tackle youth crime, drug and alcohol use and antisocial behaviour and promotes community cohesion by welcoming a range of nationalities to train.
Clive Fearon added: "We are so very grateful for the grant and it's made a huge difference to everyone using the Academy having the toilets and shower area refurbished."
Hunloke Community Garden in Chesterfield, which is used by local schools, has received £15,000 to install concrete paths to open it up to a wider range of people including people with walking aids and physical disabilities.
Jude Cornwell said: "The funding has meant that all the paths are now fully accessible to anyone with mobility issues, wheelchair users, prams, pushchairs etc so more of our community can explore and enjoy the lovely garden.
Lastly, Friends of Derby Arboretum was allocated £25,000 to renovate the Joseph Strutt building and make it available for local community use. The grant will enable volunteers from the charity to clear debris, install a security system, and make general repairs to the building to encourage additional visitors to the park.
Richard Benfield added: "The Friends of Derby Arboretum have made significant progress in bringing the Joseph Strutt pavilion back from being a wreck into a useable condition, thanks to the support given through the PCC's NICE fund. The building is now a cleaner, warm, safe and dry place in which we can create not only a base for FDA activities but a community facility in the wonderful setting that is the Derby Arboretum. This is clearly a great example of how money recovered from criminal activities can be converted into a worthwhile asset for the residents of Arboretum and Normanton as well as visitors to the park".
POCA investigations can be complex and lengthy, involving a host of experts from specialist police officers and criminal lawyers to tax investigators. Any income retrieved from criminals is split between the Home Office and the different agencies involved in recovering the money.