Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently chaired a meeting with police leaders from across the country to discuss what more can be done to tackle the scourge of serious violence. Chief constables from the seven forces which have witnessed the highest levels of serious violence convened alongside Sara Thornton (chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council), Lynne Owens (director general of the National Crime Agency) and Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Cressida Dick.
The Home Secretary was swift to praise what he described as the “incredible” work police forces are transacting in the fight against knife crime and, indeed, the ongoing commitment of the officers involved. Javid also discussed actions that the Government is taking through its Serious Violence Strategy.
The meeting heard the short-term operational moves being actioned by police forces at both a regional and national level. The latest crime statistics were aired. Officers also focused on the issues of policing resources and the use of Stop and Search.
In October last year, the Home Secretary announced measures including a new £200 million Youth Endowment Fund, an independent review of drugs misuse and a consultation on a new legal duty to underpin a multi-agency preventative or ‘public health’-focused approach towards tackling serious violence.
In addition, this year and into 2020, total police funding will increase by a figure of up to £970 million including the Council Tax precept. This represents the biggest rise since 2010 and will hopefully enable the police service to continue recruiting and fill crucial capability gaps in, for example, detective roles.
“It’s not just about law enforcement,” commented Javid. “That’s a huge part of the picture, of course, but tackling serious violence is also about early intervention and how we stop people from turning towards crime. That’s concerned with working across Government and public bodies.”
Police chiefs have echoed Javid’s sentiment that the solution isn’t solely about policing. What, then, is the wider answer?
According to police chiefs, violent crime must be treated as a national emergency. This requires emergency funding which would see the police intensify operational activities in affected areas. Current tactics work, but the challenge is having enough officers to adopt them. Emergency monies could be used to pay for officer overtime and facilitate mutual aid whereby officers are moved around the country to where the problems are greatest.
Policing budgets are growing. However, police chiefs are adamant that this isn’t enough and that continued long-term funding is going to be absolutely necessary.
Those same chief constables are concerned about the levels of school exclusions, with around 40 permanent exclusions ratified every day in 2016-2017, many children attending pupil referral units for just one hour each week and unchallenged truancy taking place. These children are at risk of becoming involved in violent crime, either as the perpetrators or the victims.
Clearly, it’s now more important than ever that a genuinely cohesive response is actively fostered across law enforcement, Government, education, health and the social services sector.