COMMENT: How community projects can help to battle knife and gang crime at its roots
By Mark Burns-Williamson, police and crime commissioner for West Yorkshire
VIOLENT CRIME is something that unfortunately has been making the headlines recently.
That is nationally and regionally, certainly with the release of the Home Office Serious Violence Strategy and the work being done around preventing knife crime that devastates lives.
With such serious crimes on the rise, it is right that we all work better together to tackle such violence and the impact it has on society and individuals.
But it is important to acknowledge that crime rises have to be attributed in part to cuts in police resources, as the subsequent leaked Home Office report demonstrated.
We have faced funding challenges in West Yorkshire with the well-known fact that since 2010 West Yorkshire’s policing budget has been cut by over a third at the cost of over 2000 police jobs due to Government cuts.
I have been putting extra resources into local police recruitment but there is a long way to go to rebuild the numbers especially into Neighbourhood Policing who help to establish vital community links and meaningful engagement.
Early intervention and prevention are key to addressing rises in violent crime and fully understanding the influence and impact of social media.
As is partnership work. This can’t be left to the police alone.
We have seen a recent 17.5 per cent increase from 2016-17 in West Yorkshire, however, knife crime is still a relatively low-incidence crime type and improved crime recording standards may account for some of the recent increases.
Nevertheless, early intervention and prevention means investment and collaborative working, a partnership approach with the voluntary sector and community groups, and a focus on educating young people to protect and divert them away from knife and violent crime.
It means officers engaging within communities, recognising high-risk areas, individuals and situations and intervening earlier with partners to ensure people are diverted away from serious violent crime.
Working with communities at grassroots level, and not just solely around police intervention, is one of the reasons my Safer Communities Fund is so successful. The money for the fund comes from the money seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act, of which I have championed since being elected in 2012.
I am pleased to see in our latest grant round that local initiatives to tackle knife and gang crime at the earliest stage have been awarded funding.
The next grant round, opening on May 14, will have £200,000 for projects that specifically tackle all forms of serious violent crime, including those focusing on prevention and early intervention, supporting diversion away from crime, protection and education and support for victims of serious violence.
It is important to note that the fund has always helped tackle serious violence at a local level by funding projects that address triggers such as drink, drugs, mental health, diversionary projects, reducing re-offending and supporting victims.
Projects funded in this grant round include Street Doctors, who are a team of medical students who teach emergency life-saving first aid skills to young people. They aim to reach vulnerable, high-risk young people who have or who are likely to be exposed to violent crime. They will deliver sessions across West Yorkshire.