HAMPSHIRE police officers are handing out knitted teddy bears to children involved in domestic abuse incidents in a bid to break down communication barriers.
The plush toys, dubbed Bobby Buddies, have been knitted by volunteers and are given out by officers to youngsters to help them talk.
Sergeant Deborah Ashthorpe said the initiative helps ‘give them a voice' if police attend their home because of domestic abuse.
‘Domestic abuse can have devastating effects on children and they need to be properly spoken to and safeguarded,' she said.
‘We also don’t want them to think we’re scary or be afraid of us now, or in the future.
‘The bears give us something tangible to handover and talk about, to break down barriers, and engage with the young child.’
She added: ‘We’ve had a great response from volunteers who want to help, from local knitting and community groups, relatives of police officers and staff and even people knitting them in their lunch breaks at work.’
Sgt Ashthorpe said the bears, made to look like police officers, have also been given out to children in other distressing situations.
PC Aaron Shale gave out his first bear earlier this year and said the recipient, a little girl, was ‘so proud and really opened up as a result’.
‘I told her about using her bear to be brave and that if officers attended again then she should get her bear and they would know to speak with her,' he said.
‘When my colleagues re-visited the following morning, the little girl ran upstairs to get her bear and show them.
‘Instantly they had something to talk to her about and they had a nice chat about the bear.
‘This helped lead on to another conversation about what happens at home meaning they could gather more information.’
For information on how to get involved with knitting Bobby Buddies, contact your local Neighbourhood Policing Team, whose contacts details can be found on the Hampshire Constabulary website at hampshire.police.uk.