Police and Crime Commissioner takes the fight to violent crime securing £3million worth of funding for prevention
07 April 2023
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones has launched a Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) and is funding a Violent Crime Task Force to tackle the complex issues of violent crime.
- VRUs are a pioneering multi-agency initiative that bring 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.
- VRUs champion a trauma informed ‘public health approach’ working with partners to identify and tackle the causes of violence in our communities.
- The Home Office gave partner agencies in Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton a VRU Grant of £1.4m for 2022 to 2023 and £1.1million for 2023-24.
- The Violent Crime Task Force is made up of 11 police officers plus one Sergeant and one Inspector focused on reducing serious violence, which includes knife crime, robberies and serious assaults.
- The team is being centrally funded via the Home Office for 2022-25. Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary were awarded £508,479 to fund the team.
PCC Donna Jones said: “Serious violence is a complex issue, which is why I am putting multi-agency working at the centre of our approach in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight.
“The VRU brings together health, police, education leaders, health workers, local government and many other organisations from across local communities to tackle violent crime and address its underlying causes.”
“Whilst the Violent Crime Task Force officers are out in communities using tactics to reduce knife crime and serious assaults.
“These two key initiatives, together with the recruitment of 650 additional police officers and named local bobbies for all communities will increase safety in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight.”
Violent Crime Task Force
The Violent Crime Task Force is a team of 11 officers working with local police teams throughout Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to understand high risk offenders and hotpots areas and offering proactive solutions to prevent violence from happening.
The Violent Crime Task Force works closely with the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU).
The team has been made possible by additional funding from the Home Office which has been made available to help police reduce serious violence in hotspots by completing additional patrols and putting long-term problem solving in place with partners to identify and address root causes of the issues. This includes the management of serious violence perpetrators.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary were awarded £508,479.
As Commissioner, Donna Jones recognises the police need the right people in the right places at the right time to tackle these offences head on.
She said: “This task force is helping local officers understand the key issues in their neighbourhood and bolstering police visibility by supporting them on extra patrols.
“The team is reviewing crime patterns; key offenders and key locations and then offering bespoke plans to neighbourhood teams to help reduce violence, and ultimately to prevent incidents from happening.
“Violent crime is complex and we must understand the root cause to really get on top of the issue. I am concerned about young people, specifically those aged between 14 and 24, getting involved in violent crime.
“If we can stop that and offer help, we’ve reduced crime and we’ve stopped someone becoming a victim.”
The Task Force already boasts some recent successes by cutting robberies up to 45% through tactical work in Portsmouth; dramatically reducing the number of incidents in the town centre.
- December 2019: 37 robberies
- December 2022: 20 robberies (45% reduction)
- January 2020: 33 robberies
- January 2023: 26 robberies (18% reduction)
The team have also provided local support in Aldershot where a man was charged with possession with intent to supply a controlled drug of Class B and acquire/use/possess criminal property, in addition to a targeted operation in Leigh Park after it was reported a group of young people were carrying knives in the area.
Superintendent Simon Tribe, leading the teams out in communities, said: “I am really pleased to see that the team have hit the ground running, it is really important that we make sure that now we have a dedicated resource in this area, we start to make a real impact on violence and the causes of it to make Hampshire and the Isle of Wight a safer place for our communities.”
Violence Reduction Unit
Authorities in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight have been funded by the Home Office since 2019 to run a VRU Programme, but in 2022 partners agreed to move from a four-location VRU Model (Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and IOW) to a single central team responsible for activity across the two counties, which is coordinated by the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner.
For 2023 to 2024, the Home Office is providing £1.1m for the newly formed VRU to ensure there are effective services in place for preventing young people from getting involved in violence.
The government has recently published its review of VRUs which revealed promising signs the approach is working, with 136,000 violence without injury offences nationally estimated to have been prevented in areas with the programmes.
The VRU has been focused on violence in public spaces, and the rate of public space violence per 1000 of population is now 25% below the national average in Hampshire and The Isle of Wight.
There are also positive indications that homicides and hospital admissions for violent injuries are reducing.
The VRU in Hampshire is responsible for coordinating a partnership response to violence and has the following key measures:
- Reduction in hospital admissions for assaults with a knife or sharp object and especially among victims aged under 25
- Reduction in knife-enabled serious violence and especially among victims aged under 25
- Reduction in all non-domestic homicides and especially among victims aged under 25 involving knives
The newly formed VRU jointly hosted an event during February half term in partnership with Fluid Motion, Anvil Arts, Proteus Theatre, Hampshire Cricket and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The event was held in Basingstoke and aimed to provide young people aged between 11 and 18 years old with activities during the school holidays.
In addition, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has just provided £286,667 until 2025 to fund a major new programme which will examine the risks and impact of knife crime and the dangers of exploitation and other violence. The programme will support young people to find their own solutions, enabling them to build positive relationships and respond to challenging situations throughout their lives. In partnership with Artswork and BearFace Theatre, the programme will visit over 70 schools in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, delivering sessions for both children and staff and using drama techniques to “rehearse” challenging situations.
Interventions, especially in these formative years, are crucial as they allow young people to understand the risks of violence, knife crime and exploitation and help them make informed decisions on how to respond more positively to challenging situations throughout their life.
Pivotal role in making communities safer
The Commissioner’s announcements come just after the commencement of the Serious Violence Duty which was brought in by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.
The Duty was introduced by the Government through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act 2022 and places a duty on specific organisations such as the police, fire service, justice partners, health and local authorities to collaborate to prevent and tackle serious violence in their local area, with PCCs at the heart of the collaboration.
The legislation intends to create the right conditions for authorities to collaborate and communicate regularly, using existing partnerships where possible and to share information and take effective coordinated action in local areas. Under the Duty, all statutory partners must work together to develop a strategic needs assessment to understand the causes of violence in their area and then publish a strategy on how they will tackle it.
The Commissioner is responsible for monitoring and supporting the exercise of functions under the Duty and will play a convening role in ensuring partners work together collaboratively to prevent serious violence.
PCC Donna Jones said: “As Commissioner, my role is a pivotal one. I will be coordinating the multi-agency activity to ensure there is a joined up approach to tackling serious violence across our two counties. I am going to make sure everyone is around the table to make the decisions which meet the unique needs of our towns and cities. The close working relationship between the Violent Crime Task Force and the VRU, from my office, will ensure this work is joined up and effective.
“This is a whole system approach to reduce violence long term and I am committed to help to coordinate sustainable prevention and early intervention programmes to ensure we prevent people from committing serious crimes.”