Eighteen areas of England and Wales most blighted by violent crime have been receiving targeted funding for the past three years, to increase police patrols in crime hotspots and provide more support to at-risk young people.
An independent evaluation published today of the government’s ‘hotspot’ policing programme and network of Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) has revealed promising signs the approach is working, with 136,000 violence without injury offences estimated to have been prevented in areas with the programmes.
There are also positive indications that homicides and hospital admissions for violent injuries are reducing in these locations as a result of this funding.
The results come as the new Serious Violence Duty comes into force today, which was brought in by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 and places a legal duty on public bodies to work together to drive down serious violence.
Policing Minister Chris Philp said:
These are outstanding results. Early interventions, which support at-risk kids to make the right choices in life, are helping to keep our communities and streets safer.
Serious violence is a complex issue, which is why we are putting multi-agency working at the centre of our approach.
Violence Reduction Units, hotspot patrols and the recruitment of 20,000 additional police officers will see every community become a safe and prosperous place to live.
Set up in 2019, VRUs are a pioneering multi-agency initiative that brings together local partners in policing, education, health, and local government, to identify vulnerable children and adults and steer them away from a life of crime and violence.
With prevention better than cure, VRUs and GRIP patrols not only reduce violent incidents but see wider benefits. In their third year of operation, for every £1 invested by the Home Office in this serious violence prevention work, there was a return of £4.10 in savings to society.
The Violence Intervention Project (VIP) navigator scheme by the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Violence Reduction Unit engages with young people in custody suites, at a time they are most likely to accept help. Support workers create a ‘teachable moment’ to offer support and access to services to steer them back on track.
One eighteen-year old, James (name has been changed), was helped by the VIP team after being caught in possession of a knife and drugs. Weekly mentoring, engagement with a substance misuse worker, and enrolment on a construction course and a gym has helped him stick to his bail conditions. He has not reoffended, has been more open about his mental health and now understands how decisions at this stage of his life can impact his future.
Grace Strong, Director of the Leicestershire Violence Reduction Network said:
The VIP team are seeing hundreds of young people a year and offering them tailored support to make positive changes in their life and reducing their risk of being involved in further serious violence.
These vulnerable young people are becoming supported and empowered, and it is extremely positive for everyone to see them achieve goals that they never thought to be possible.
West Yorkshire VRU runs a similar scheme, in conjunction with the local hospital, to reach those presenting in A&E due to a violent incident.
Dr Alice Downs, Paediatric Emergency Consultant & Department Safeguarding Lead for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said:
When young people come into our hospitals as a result of violent crime we have a small window of opportunity to offer brief intervention using youth workers to empower the young person to make better life choices.
Working with the Violence Reduction Unit has enabled us to establish a team of Navigators who can explore the circumstances that have led to the young person’s hospital attendance, and address these to try and prevent similar incidents occurring.
Their attendance in our Emergency Department provides a valuable opportunity to intervene, improve lives, reduce morbidity and death from violent crime. This in turn should reduce the substantial impact on families and the cost to the NHS.
Building on the successes of VRUs, from today, multi-agency working is a legal obligation for public bodies across England and Wales, through the Serious Violence Duty. Police, health, fire and rescue services, local government and criminal justice partners will now be required to collaborate to find and address the causes of serious violence in their local area.
The duty will aim to continue driving down serious youth violence (as measured by under 25 hospital admissions for assault by a sharp object) across England and Wales, which has already fallen by 20% across England and Wales since March 2020.