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New unit adopts ‘public health approach’ to cutting violent crime

PCC secures more than £3m from government to mirror big city ‘all-for-one’ campaign

Britain’s biggest regional force is taking a leaf out of policing trailblazers in Glasgow and London to establish its first ever unit dedicated to tackling violent crime.

The West Midlands force is adopting a 'public health approach' to bring together police and partner agencies after landing more than £3 million in government funding.

Its new violence reduction unit will focus on diverting young people away from being lured into gangs and criminal activity, echoing a tried and tested method used in Scotland and introduced last year by Mayor Sadiq Khan in London.

The new body – championed by police and crime commissioner David Jamieson –aims to bring together police, social services, health and education professionals to ensure the rising tide of violence is tackled by all.

The VRU will also bring in former offenders to warn youngsters about the consequences of a life of crime, offer job training to help improve employment prospects, and roll out violence tuition in schools, while it will also supplement the scheme to place youth workers in hospital A&E departments.

The Home Office funding of £3.37m has been awarded to the region as it faces its worst violent crime epidemic in years, with knife attacks up by 85 per cent since 2012 and gun crime rising by a third.

The West Midlands PCC said: “For some years now we have been warning that more funding is needed to tackle rising levels of violent crime in our area.

“I have been calling for funding for a Violence Reduction Unit for some time. I am pleased that my campaign has now been successful.

“I will be using this money to ensure our young people aren’t caught up in a cycle of violence and have real alternative options and better life chances.

“I have worked closely with Public Health England, local authorities and communities on this bid and would like to place on record my thanks to them all.”

Mr Jamieson added: “Whilst this funding is welcomed by all in the West Midlands, the government needs to know that a real long term funding solution is still very much needed.”

His cautionary words mirror those of London Mayor Khan when its anti-violence taskforce was launched in the UK capital last September.

Despite the advent of a VRU – with an initial £500,000 funding –Mayor Khan warned: "I want to be honest with Londoners that the work of the unit will not deliver results overnight.

"The causes of violent crime are many years in the making and the solutions will take time. That's why our new approach is focusing over the long term.

"This unit is not a substitute for the investment our public services need if London is to significantly cut levels of violent crime."

The government has stipulated that the cash needs to be spent in the West Midlands by April 2020.

Last month it was announced the force is set to receive around £7.5 million in Home Office cash to target violent crime as part of a series of short-term funding pledges.

News of the West Midlands VRU comes as the Home Office has provisionally allocated up to £35 million to police forces for units

Association of PCCs chairman  Mark Burns-Williamson PCC commented: “Additional funding to tackle knife and violent crime of course is welcomed.

"Police and crime commissioners have long since advocated and pushed for a whole system public health approach to reducing violence.

“The new investment is an important step forward.

"However, reducing violence is a long-term challenge requiring sustained investment and funding and something which I hope the current prime ministerial candidates ponder on very closely. 

"It is essential that funding beyond this first year, already truncated, is found to ensure that VRUs can have a lasting impact on reducing serious violence in our communities which is something all PCCs and key local partners are committed to.”

APCC serious violence deputy lead Marc Jones added: “We must ensure that the emerging threats right across the country, including in smaller force areas, are addressed as part of future funding decisions."

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