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The Commissioner’s blog – tackling serious violence

March 2023

SERIOUS VIOLENCE linked to knife crime, drugs and county lines has a devastating impact. Not only on the lives of victims and families who are directly affected but also on the fear it can cause in the wider community.  Thankfully, we don’t see the same level of serious violence, particularly gun and knife crime, in Cambridgeshire as seen in some of our bigger cities but we are not immune to these issues. There are no easy answers to solving the problems on our streets, but one thing is certain – they can’t be addressed by one agency alone.

The Government’s Serious Violence Strategy in April 2018 made it clear that public bodies are expected to work together in their efforts to drive violence out of our communities. The introduction of the Serious Violence Duty in January made it a legal requirement to do so with Police, Fire & Rescue, Local Authorities, Health, Justice and other agencies now legally bound to collaborate to tackle the root causes of serious violence.

Police and Crime Commissioners are pivotal to the new arrangements, with responsibility for convening partners together and supporting this work. It is a duty I take extremely seriously. As a county, we already have good working relationships with all partner agencies and have been tackling serious violence together for some time. The arrival of this new legislation will now amplify these efforts and ensure we continue to maximise public funds to deliver better outcomes for young people.  

Last week, I hosted a partnership workshop which was really the first step to further enhancing our partnership arrangements. This was a very focused workshop bringing together the strategic leads from all relevant organisations to discuss our new responsibilities, understand where gaps in provision might exist, create joint plans and hear evidence about what is working well elsewhere.

The event highlighted the complex precursors that can contribute to violent behaviour. Offending can be driven by economic disadvantage, trauma or lack of opportunity or support, but we know that young people from all walks of life can be drawn in and exploited. What is very clear is that we must do more to stop the deadly cycle before it takes hold. We must act quickly when risk presents itself. This is what is called a Public Health Approach – tackling the source of the disease rather than just focusing on the cure.

Why is it some young people end up carrying knives? How do we stop them? How do they end up as criminals? I don’t have all the answers – neither do the police – but together we can look at what makes a difference.

For me, supporting young people is a priority.

One issue we have here and across the country is County Lines and drug supply and the criminal exploitation of vulnerable young people who are drawn in. It’s very easy as adults to say ‘don’t carry knives it’s wrong’ but if someone offers you a lifestyle that allows you to wear the latest trainers, there’s a chance that young person could end up in the system. Young people need to be protected from becoming both victims and perpetrators and most of all we need to ensure young people understand there can be no positive outcome from being in possession of a knife or offensive weapon.

I’m really keen we work on a whole system approach to reduce serious violence, keeping young people out of harm’s way.

My office already funds prevention projects to engage young people in our communities. We have a Youth Fund which has seen many beneficiaries. The new duty will open up further opportunities for investment in youth provision. This is a priority for me.

Alongside a preventative approach, robust enforcement is critical in dismantling County Lines and gangs. Let’s hit them where it hurts by taking away their money and assets and by making sure our law enforcement agencies are doing all they can to deal with the most harmful criminals in society.

As an ex-police officer and former senior policy lead for tackling serious violence and county lines for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), I have a good understanding of what the issues are and the harm they cause. I will be using my position and influence to champion the opportunity we have to make a difference.