A new multi-million pound taskforce has been launched to help tackle violent crime across Greater Manchester.
The Violence Reduction Unit brings together Greater Manchester Police, National Probation Service, health and education professionals, youth justice and local authorities to address the underlying causes of violent crime and work together with communities to prevent it.
It forms part of Greater Manchester’s approach to tackling serious violent crime, which includes making sure victims of violent crime get the right support, and improving the criminal justice response to all forms of serious violence.
The launch of the unit comes as recent figures show that knife-related crime is starting to come down. Statistics show there were 229 reported crimes involving a knife or sharp instrument in June 2019 – the lowest in twelve months.
The work of the unit will include working with schools to increase awareness of the consequences of getting involved in violent crime, identifying and working with young people at risk of violent crime, and developing a community-led approach to prevention and early intervention.
Police officers will also carry out targeted activity on transport routes, in town and city centres, hospital emergency departments, and test purchase operations will be carried out to tackle the illegal purchase of weapons.
Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester Bev Hughes said: “Violent crime causes serious harm and blights the lives of victims, families and communities. We are committed, not only to strong enforcement against violent crime, but also to trying to prevent it happening.
“The work of this new unit will strengthen the good work already happening within our communities, bringing together police, local authorities, youth services, health, education and schools, as well as other criminal justice partners, to embed a community-led approach to prevention and enforcement.”
The unit is also working with Manchester Metropolitan University academics to build a more comprehensive picture of violent crime across Greater Manchester and get a better understanding of the causes and how to prevent it.
Deputy Mayor Bev Hughes added: “Crucially, by working with families, communities and young people we can understand and address the reasons how and why people, particularly young people, can get drawn into violent crime. If we can turn young people away from violence at the earliest possible opportunity we can make a real difference to them and our communities.”
Jon Rouse, chief officer of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We need to treat violence as a public health problem as well as a crime problem, identifying and tackling the underlying causes.
“NHS services have a key role in reducing violence by providing the support people need if they face mental health difficulties, or if they abuse drugs and alcohol.
“However, we will make the biggest difference in the long term by ensuring children develop well and learn good relationships and social empathy.”
Superintendent Chris Downey of Greater Manchester Police said: “The creation of a Greater Manchester-wide violence reduction unit is a fantastic opportunity to build on our successful partnership working and problem-solving responses across Greater Manchester.
“Teamwork is required to address the causes of violent crime, and this will come through partnerships with GMP officers, youth services, education and more. The key to this is the sharing of information and working together with communities to decide the right way forward. For many that will be about enforcement and prosecution. For many that is going to be interventions and diversions. It requires each of us to ask ourselves ‘what is the cause and what do we have to do to prevent it?’. In most cases, the answer does not sit solely with the police, hence the need for us to work together with local partners.”
The Violence Reduction Unit is being funded through the Home Office Serious Violence Fund, which was announced earlier this year. Greater Manchester has been allocated around £8m to tackle serious violence, which includes £3.37m to establish the Violence Reduction Unit and £4.8m to increase the police response to violent crime. This has included targeted patrols, weapon sweeps in key areas, and increased enforcement activity across the city-region, which has already resulted in a number of arrests and weapons, seized.