SOUTHAMPTON youngsters are set to be at the heart of a groundbreaking new project aimed at reducing youth crime and offending.

Teenagers from the city will be invited to form part of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s new youth forum – a sounding board where they can have their say on issues affecting their peers.

The forum is a six-month pilot project that is costing £15,000 and will be run via a charity that works with young people across the country.

Up to 25 people will be selected to sit on the panel, which will meet regularly between July and the end of the year and will include 16-23-yearolds from Basingstoke and Hart.

If the scheme is successful, it could be rolled out across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight next year if funding is available, revealed PCC Simon Hayes.

He said: “Youth is very important to me – young people are an important part of the community of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. I have seen projects in the past that have been all talk and not translated into anything on the ground so I am quite confident that this will transform into something good.”

Hampshire is the second region in the UK to sign up to the scheme – aimed at giving multiple young people a voice rather than one youth ambassador for the area – after Leicester launched its youth forum last week.

It is being coordinated by notfor- profit organisation the SHM Foundation.

Rose Dowling, leading the project, said it was a positive move that would give young people a voice on policing and crime.

She said: “PCCs really want to hear from and work with young people. The aim is to develop a blueprint for the future to be spread out across England and Wales and we think this is the best way to do this rather than having just one voice.”

She added: “Police and crime has the potential to get young people really switched on and engaged. They key to it will be getting a really diverse group.”

Recruitment for the youth forum will begin in June.