£7m programme to tackle youth violence rolled out in five cities

Young people who are involved in violence will be given help and opportunities to choose a life away from crime under a US-inspired programme rolling out in five English cities.

May 25, 2023
By Paul Jacques

It uses a tried-and-tested approach known as ‘focused deterrence’, which was pioneered in the US city Boston in the mid-1990s to address the escalation in gun-related murders.

It was also used effectively in Glasgow in 2008 to tackle the city’s territorial gang violence problem.

Research has shown that – on average – focused deterrence strategies reduce crime by 33 per cent.

It has been used in cities around the world to reduce violent crime and will now be adopted in Coventry, Nottingham, Leicester, Manchester and Wolverhampton.

The Home Office and the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) are funding the new programme, investing £3 million and £4 million respectively.

Focused deterrence brings together the police, local councils, community organisations, health services, schools, colleges and probation services. It works by identifying and targeting individuals (aged 14 years and over) in a local area who are involved – or are at risk of becoming involved – in serious violence. Then by drawing on the collective resources and expertise of the partners, individuals are offered tailored support. This could include mentoring, access to education, training and employment opportunities, mental health services, housing advice or other services that address underlying issues in their lives, relationships or neighbourhoods.

“However, if the offer of support is turned down and their violent behaviour continues, swift police and legal sanctions will be enforced,” said the YEF.

The delivery of the Home Office and YEF-funded programme will be led in each location by:

  • The West Midlands Violence Reduction Partnership (in Coventry and Wolverhampton);
  • Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire Violence Reduction Unit;
  • Violence Reduction Network in Leicester; and
  • Greater Manchester Violence Reduction Unit.

Delivery of the programme will continue until August 2025.

The YEF said it aims to find what works to prevent children and young people from becoming involved in violence and to “build a movement to put this knowledge into practice”. The charity has commissioned the University of Hull to evaluate the project’s impact across the five cities and the research will provide new insight into how the focused deterrence strategy can be adapted and adopted to reduce violent crime in the UK.

Policing Minister Chris Philp said: “In March 2019 the Home Office committed to supporting the YEF with a ten-year mandate and £200 million of funding to help prevent young people becoming involved in violence.

“Focused deterrence is proven to reduce crime. This £7 million programme will offer young people a route out, combining community support and mentoring to encourage them to seek help, as well as swift enforcement action to divert them away from violence”.

Jon Yates, executive director at the YEF, said: “Focused deterrence has worked around the world – reducing crime by over 30 per cent. It’s time to know whether it can work in England.

“Violence is not inevitable – we can bring it down. The important thing is not about being tough on crime or being soft on crime. The important thing is being smart on crime – we need to do what works.”

The West Midlands Violence Reduction Partnership will oversee a £2 million project to tackle violent crime in Coventry and Wolverhampton under the programme.

The money will be used to target mostly young people who are suspected of or are already impacted by gangs or County Lines drug dealing under the new scheme, known as the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). There will also be millions of pounds worth of extra police time invested in both areas.

The project seeks to identify the people most likely to be involved in violence, before clearly communicating the consequences of it for them and others and providing support for developing positive routes away from it.

In 2019, Northamptonshire Police implemented the CIRV programme, which is still operational, and has seen a 40 per cent reduction in offending.

The programme makes sure the young people identified have 24/7 access to a team of professionals who help them understand why they are committing crimes and support them to stop.

Research shows inequalities such as poverty, violence in the household and parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are more likely to draw the young person into a violent lifestyle. CIRV provides them with intensive support including help with housing issues, access to education, ill health, debt or addiction.

CIRV will operate until August 2025 after receiving the £2 million investment from the Home Office and the YEF.

Simon Foster, the West Midlands police and crime commissioner, said: “This is an important new initiative, that builds on the strength, solidarity and support of our West Midlands Violence Reduction Partnership.

“The programme has been designed to divert young people out of county lines, gangs and violence; to enable our young people to access positive opportunities for the benefit of themselves, their families and society as a whole; and to prevent and tackle violence, protect people and save lives.”

West Midlands Police Assistant Chief Constable Claire Bell said: “CIRV aims to engage and support communities most affected by violence, but also to ensure we are disrupting any violence and criminal activity, to help keep our towns and cities safe.”

She said any individual not willing to engage or create positive changes in their behaviour may be prosecuted through the criminal justice system.

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