13. My Commitments as PCC (To work with police to prevent crime and asb)
Work in partnership with the police and others to prevent crime and antisocial behaviour
Violence Reduction Unit (VRU)
The countywide VRU was set-up after the OPCC secured funding from the HO in 2019. The introduction of VRU’s in 18 local areas nationally is part of a focus on early intervention, as set out in the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy.
The Kent and Medway VRU is a partnership between the police, local councils, health service providers and other key partners. It aims to tackle the root causes of violence using a multi-agency, public health based preventative approach.
Its mission is to make Kent’s communities the safest they can be through a long term co-ordinated approach to preventing serious violence from occurring. It aims to achieve this by:
Driving collaboration between services and ensuring the response is not inhibited by geographical, age or service boundaries.
Building the capacity of communities to be involved in finding the solutions to violence and play an active part in how violence is prevented.
Making best use of technology and evidence to improve everyone’s understanding of why violence occurs, how it can be prevented and what works.
Violence is not something that just happens, nor is it normal or acceptable in society. Many of the key risk factors that make individuals, families or communities vulnerable to violence are changeable, including exposure to adverse experiences in childhood and subsequently the environments in which individuals live, learn and work throughout youth, adulthood and older age.
The public health approach adopted by VRUs is a science-based four step process:
a) What’s the problem? - gather data to reveal the who, what, why, where and when of the problem. This can be crime data but also information from hospitals, schools and a range of other sources.
b) What are the causes? - look for evidence on the factors that put people at risk of experiencing, or perpetrating, violence as well as the factors that can protect them.
c) What works and for whom? - using the data gathered design, implement and (crucially) evaluate interventions.
d) Scale it up! - if an intervention works, then scale it up while evaluating how well it works and its cost-effectiveness.
The VRU commissions county-wide and locally designed services to deliver its prevention and intervention approach. In 2022/23, examples included:
Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) diversionary activity, including 1:1 mentoring for 36 weeks / 30 ball court sessions. Originally in the Dartford area following a fatal stabbing in April 2022, it moved around to areas most in need. CACT also provided Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) talks to schools in the Dartford area.
Catch 22 delivered both preventative and protective interventions, supporting those up to the age of 25, who were at risk of CCE and county lines. Delivered by specialist caseworkers, the interventions took a holistic, trauma-informed approach appropriate to the age, risk and experiences of the young person.
The use of Buddi Tags for those at risk of gang / criminal exploitation or identified as high harm offenders with a wish to be supported to lower their risk of being exploited or reoffending. Over 80 young people up to the age of 25 engaged in the programme which supported partnership working to divert individuals away from the risks associated with crime.
Serious Violence Duty (SVD)
The SVD was introduced through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, and came into effect on 31 January 2023.
The duty identifies a number of partners including local authorities, the police, youth offending teams, Integrated Care System, probation, and the fire service. as specified authorities with a duty to reduce serious violence in their area.
The duty places several requirements upon these authorities, including: agreeing a local partnership arrangement to lead on the duty; a shared definition of serious violence: having consistent data sharing and analytical processes to develop a Strategic Needs Assessment: and production of a strategy to set out how the duty will be implemented locally.
Although not a specified authority, the PCC as the receiver of HO funding for the duty has associated oversight and reporting responsibilities. The SVD is also being co-ordinated through the OPCC, and I have used my convening powers to support its development and implementation with clear oversight on local delivery.
A workshop held on 22 February 2023 with all specified authorities agreed a strategic board should be established for the purposes of monitoring and reporting against the SVD, but delivery itself should sit at local partnership level. The board was built on the existing VRU Oversight Board arrangements but with refreshed Terms of Reference and attendance.
The workshop also agreed the following definition of serious violence: ‘Specific types of crime such as homicide, knife crime, robbery and gun crime, and areas of criminality where serious violence or its threat is inherent such as in DA, sexual offences, gangs, county lines and drug supply’.
I am currently working with Crest Advisory to refresh the Terms of Reference for the new Serious Violence Prevention Partnership Board, to enable the strategy to be progressed.
Violence Reduction Fund (VRF)
One of the recommendations from my Violence Reduction Challenge in 2018 was to create a VRF. This was a 3-year fund open to statutory organisations, voluntary groups and charities to deliver projects focused on preventing or reducing violence in the county.
The fund closed in September 2022, but the work has continued through the VRU.
The organisations funded were:
Total Insight Theatre
My Choice Matters: A 60-minute drama performance about knife crime for young people aged 12-15.
Fearless: Educating 11-16-year-olds by increasing their awareness of weapons, street crime and child sexual exploitation.
Guiding Lights: Support for girls aged 11-16 at risk of child sexual exploitation or being in coercive and controlling relationships.
Mentoring programme for clients accessing their East Kent Community Drug and Alcohol Services.
Uprising Youth & Community
Knife crime awareness campaign in East Kent aimed at reducing violent crime through engagement with young people, parents and communities.
Folkestone Youth Project
The Shed: Social, emotional and physical support for young people who had made unhealthy and negative life choices.
Reform Restore Respect
I Didn't Know That: 90-minute workshops for Year 6 pupils on gang violence and knife crime.
Mini-Cadets: Nine-week programme delivered in schools, concluding with a social act project.
a) Total Insight, Crimestoppers, Uprising Youth & Community, Reform Restore Respect and Mini Cadets reached 9,386 young people in 153 settings on topics such as the consequences of carrying weapons, hate crime, bullying, cyber-crime, gangs, county lines, exploitation and insight into policing.
b) Rising Sun, Forward Trust and Folkestone Youth Project reached 191 young people who were supported in building resilience and awareness of risky behaviours whilst engaging in positive activities.