TO SEE all their hands shoot up in the air you would think they had just been asked to take part in a chocolate tasting test.

But the 22 police cadet recruits were offering their help to bring down the number of burglaries in the borough by delivering flyers to homes - using precious time out of their half-term holiday.

They were some of the 120 youngsters the Mayor of London is aiming to train in each borough by the 2012 Olympics. Until four weeks ago, Hounslow had zero volunteers.

Now Hounslow's Volunteer Police Cadets (VPC) team is recruiting at the beginning of each school term, for one group in Isleworth and another in Feltham.

The Wednesday evening session I joined started with the 14 to 17-year-olds taking part in 'drill' and inspection.

Girls wearing pigtails and lanky teenage boys, all in school uniform, joined together to march around The Green School's drama hall, taking orders such as 'stand at ease' and 'left turn', from VPC co-ordinator, Sergeant Nathan Fane.

What first struck me was the youngsters' absolute concentration and earnestness. The pupils, who attend a number of Hounslow schools, were so eager to perfect the moves and I didn't once hear any trace of surliness or back-chat. They even quietly complimented each other when a friend performed a move well.

It's not the behaviour I imagine many of the borough's older residents would expect from the youth of today. I was also surprised to see that the girls outnumbered the boys, by almost double.

PC Paul Ryan said: "Perhaps to some boys police cadets isn't quite as cool as army cadets. Or it may be that the lads are more concerned about what their mates might say."

The cadets are also given the opportunity to take part in activities such as rock climbing, first aid training, and learning about operations such as test purchasing.

In the run-up to Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night, the police need youngsters to help check shopkeepers are not selling fireworks and knives to under-18s. This seemed to be a popular activity with the cadet.

Although Sgt Fane stresses the training does not guarantee a job in the police force he added: "Being a cadet gives the opportunity to gain new experiences and skills that you wouldn't ordinarily get, and will help them in later life"

At the end of 10 weeks' training cadets are also given the opportunity to take part in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme.

The third stage of Wednesday's session involved the cadets discussing moral dilemmas, such as what they would do if they heard of a group of boys talking about 'shanking' (knifing) someone at a bus stop or how they would cope with bullying in the unit.

The final part of the three-hour session was a fitness routine involving simple exercises, which for Natalie Hewitt, 14 from Cranford Community School is her favourite part of the training. "I'd like to be a police woman one day," she said.

For more information on the cadets, or to request an application pack call Sgt Nathan Fane on 07917 086 893, or email