Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martin Surl says the Home Office announcement that tackling serious violence needs to be a multi-agency ‘public health’ approach is “music to our ears”.

It comes after the Government announces that it will be bringing forward primary legislation to create a new duty on organisations to collaborate and information share.

‘Dare to share’ is an important part of the PCC’s Police & Crime Plan for the county. This change recognises how important, but also how hard it can be to achieve without supportive legislation.

The role of Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs) will also be recognised with an amendment to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Explicit priority of tackling serious violence will be placed on CSPs.

A commitment to working together

There’s growing recognition that violent crime cannot be solved by the police alone, and Scotland has been leading the way in treating the issue as a public health problem. As a result, Gloucestershire held a Knife Crime Summit in 2017. The outcome of the summit is a commitment to working together to see how violent crime can be reduced.

Martin Surl says,

“I am pleased the government has revitalised the Crime and Disorder Act as it’s a good piece of legislation.

“This announcement gives weight to the work conducted by my office over the last few years in promoting closer partnership working across the community safety agenda.”

Martin Surl has had frequent meetings with Home Office officials and the Policing Minister Nick Hurd to call for a renewed focus on community safety utilising the existing legislation.

Multi-agency body focusing on serious violence

There is already county-wide collaboration through Safer Gloucestershire. The body brings together the PCC, OPCC, local authorities and other partnerships such as the Health and Wellbeing Board and the Youth Justice Partnership Board to come up with a different approach. Serious violence is one of the body’s main focuses.

Chair of Safer Gloucestershire and Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner Chris Brierley says,

“The Crime and Disorder Act was brought in in 1998 in recognition that issues like serious violence should not be the sole responsibility of the police.

“Community safety can only really be achieved through working in partnership. Safer Gloucestershire brings people together to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing our communities and enables us to work out solutions.”

A serious violence coordinator role is now being funded in Gloucestershire. The role is a partnership between the OPCC, Public Health, and the team at Gloucestershire County Council. It shows how the county is already ahead of the national curve in treating serious violence as a public health issue.

Despite low ‘knife crime’ rates, it is a recognised as a concern in Gloucestershire communities

Despite the relatively low rates of violent crime in Gloucestershire (0.85% of all crimes), the joined-up approach recognises concerns about knife crime in the county’s communities and how everyone has a part to play in addressing it.

Councillor Tim Harman, cabinet member for Public Health at Gloucestershire County Council, says:

“There are a range of underlying factors that increase the chances of someone becoming a victim or a perpetrator of violence. We need to focus on these causes rather than just dealing with the consequences of violence. Safer Gloucestershire means we are able to work across agencies to focus on these root causes.

“Increasingly people talk about having a public health approach but essentially this means we focus on prevention and early intervention to help change those risks. I welcome the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s commitment to this agenda by funding a violence prevention post at Gloucestershire County Council to lead this work locally.”

The Government’s Serious Violence Strategy has stated the action should be guided by evidence of what works to tackle the root causes of violence. It is investing £100m in extra funding in 2019/20 to support increased police activity. There’s a further £200m over 10 years for the Youth Endowment Fund, aimed at early intervention.

Early intervention as a strategy has been recognised by the PCC through his Police and Crime Plan priority ‘Young People Becoming Adults’. Grants are also given via the ‘Commissioner’s Fund’ to projects providing early intervention.