Since I was elected, I have promoted a ‘public health approach’ to crime, seeking to reduce crime at source by focussing on the wide range of social and economic issues that influence criminal behaviour. This approach accepts that crime is often complex, is never just a police matter and involves the whole community to find the best long term solutions.
Last week, the Bishop of Gloucester and I chaired a meeting to discuss a ground breaking Faith Alliance initiative, to examine the place of faith and cultural diversity in reducing crime. We had a wide ranging group of stakeholders, including influential representation from the local Muslim community.
Faith groups are an untapped resource in fighting crime, and can play a part in harnessing those people who are passionate about making a difference and caring about the health of their community. We plan to focus on Gloucester first, and see how we can engage with active faith groups, to identify how we can support and empower them to have an even greater influence on social action and crime prevention.
This work will build on all my team’s work so far to reduce criminal behaviour by focussing on young people in schools and beyond. We already have school beat officers who give advice to children on how to stay safe in a hostile world. Our Boost programme gets 6th formers to teach primary school leavers about self-respect, respect for others and anger management.
Our accredited video explains the nature of consent to primary school children when borrowing and lending things, setting the groundwork for any future sexual relationships as they get older. Our ‘Dying for a Fix’ video highlights the dangers of drug addiction and our ‘Bystander’ video encourages young people to call out sexist behaviour.
We recently funded an educational theatre programme for our county secondary schools that uses the safe environment of drama to call out sexist behaviour and toxic masculinity. The theatre company we commissioned is experienced in covering sensitive issues. Their well-scripted scenes are a powerful way to encourage teenagers to talk about the corrosive power of social media, and the need to respect each other, rather than follow sexist stereotypical behaviours.
The battle against crime can be won by those communities working together with the police, to seek long term solutions that empower and lift the spirit.