No less than 18 Police and Crime Commissioners have been awarded £35 million by the Government to set up specialist teams designed to tackle violent crime in their area. The Violence Reduction Units will bring together different organisations – including the police, local Government, health, community leaders and other key partners – to tackle violent crime by understanding its root causes. The new Violence Reduction Units will be responsible for identifying what’s driving violent crime in a given area and coming up with a co-ordinated response.
The announcement follows a round table discussion at Downing Street hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson which brought together the police, probation and prisons and leaders to discuss how to cut crime and improve the criminal justice system.
The Prime Minister has vowed to give the police service the powers and resources needed to urgently tackle serious violence, cut crime and target county lines gangs. Recruitment of 20,000 new police officers – a commitment made by the Prime Minister when he took office – will begin next month.
The Home Secretary has also confirmed that all 43 police forces in England and Wales can use enhanced stop and search powers.
Police enforcement required
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “To beat knife crime we must do two things. First, we need assertive, high-profile police enforcement and, second, we need a co-ordinated approach to the long-term solutions to violence in society, and especially among the young. These new units should help us achieve results on both.”
Marc Jones PCC, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ deputy lead on serious violence issued, stated: “This funding to tackle serious violent crime is welcome. We know that the best way to reduce violence in our communities is to invest in preventative measures, adopting a whole system public health approach, and that Police and Crime Commissioners are best placed to deliver this work locally. We will continue to work with the Home Office and our partners to ensure long-term investment for all police force areas to tackle the scourge of serious violence.”
The cash is being awarded after Police and Crime Commissioners in the 18 areas worst affected by serious violence secured their provisional allocation through successful bids. Each Violence Reduction Unit will be tasked with delivering both short and long-term strategies to tackle violent crime involving police, healthcare workers, community leaders and others.
The £35 million for violence reduction units comes from a £100 million serious violence fund announced in March.
Government lifts emergency Stop and Search restrictions
Home Secretary Priti Patel has empowered more than 8,000 police officers to authorise enhanced Stop and Search powers as part of central Government efforts to crack down on violent crime.
The Home Office is making it simpler for all forces in England and Wales to use Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which empowers officers to Stop and Search anyone in a designated area without needing reasonable grounds for suspicion if serious violence is anticipated.
The nationwide pilot has been extended from a smaller pilot within the seven forces worst affected by knife crime following an urgent review commissioned by the Prime Minister.
Patel said: “We are experiencing a knife crime epidemic and I’m determined to put a stop to it. Police chiefs are clear that Stop and Search is a vital tool in combating the scourge of serious violence and keeping people safe. I’m giving them my full support and more police authority to approve Stop and Search to halt this terrible crime in its tracks.”
The roll-out will see the Home Secretary lift all conditions in the voluntary Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme over the use of Section 60 by:
*reducing the level of authorisation needed for officers to deploy and extend Section 60 from senior officers to inspectors and superintendents
*lowering the degree of certainty required by the authorising officer so they must reasonably believe an incident involving serious violence ‘may’ (rather than ‘will’) occur
*extending the initial period a Section 60 can be in force from 15 hours to 24, and extending the overall period an extension can be in place from 39 to 48 hours
Requirement to record data
Last year, almost 7,000 arrests for offensive weapons and 900 arrests for firearms were made following a Stop and Search. Police forces will still be required to record data around Stop and Search and monitor its fair and proper use.
In addition, the College of Policing is currently consulting on new guidance for forces on community engagement around Stop and Search.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for Stop and Search, Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock, said: “The authority to Stop and Search people in appropriate circumstances is a necessary power that allows police officers to tackle violence in our communities and prevent people from becoming victims of crime. Every day, officers across the country seize horrifying weapons and are preventing further injuries and deaths by using their search powers. Section 60 powers to Stop and Search anyone within a designated area can be extremely effective when there have been violent incidents and police commanders believe there’s a high risk of further violence occurring.”
Hanstock added: “The extension of this pilot to all 43 police forces, as well as the British Transport Police across the rail network, will help to reduce bureaucracy and allow officers to use Section 60 controls much faster when it’s clear that it’s in the public interest to do so.”
Offensive Weapons Act
In addition, the Government has announced bold plans to shortly publish draft guidance on measures in the Offensive Weapons Act that relate to the sale and delivery of corrosive products and knives, as well as Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs).
This will pave the way for new criminal offences that will help to stop knives and dangerous acids making their way on to our streets, including preventing delivery to the under-18s of knives bought online and making it illegal to sell and deliver corrosive products to under-18s.
KCPOs are civil orders which can be imposed by courts on any person aged 12 or over to prevent vulnerable individuals from becoming involved in knife crime. KCPOs will enable courts to impose conditions – such as curfews or requirements to attend educational courses – that will help people resist being drawn into violence and assist police officers in managing those at risk in the community.
Priti Patel commented: “Our Offensive Weapons Act will give the police service extra powers to take dangerous weapons out of criminals’ hands, while Knife Crime Prevention Orders will act as a deterrent to those at risk of becoming involved in knife crime.”
Funding for the CPS
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has received welcome news that the Government plans to invest an additional £85 million in the organisation.
Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC said: “This investment comes at a crucial time for criminal justice. Our work is changing, and this new funding will provide the increased capacity to enable us to respond effectively to challenging trends we currently face, from the surge in violent crime through to the explosion of digital evidence.”
By way of conclusion, Hill also observed: “The Prime Minister has been very clear that keeping the public safe is a Government priority, and that this desire will need a joined-up response from all parts of the criminal justice system. The Government’s announcement means that the CPS can deal effectively with the increasing complexity of our caseload, as well as any increase that comes as a result of the cash injection for policing.”