Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness has laid out determined plans to tackle serious violence in the North East.
Stopping young people carrying knives and ruining lives has been named a top priority by the Commissioner who wants to build on promising interventions that are being rolled out across the region.
She says her Northumbria Violence Reduction Unit, Northumbria Police and incredible organisations like Samantha’s Legacy and the Connor Brown Trust are working hard to deliver life-changing interventions and powerful education work – but more needs to be done.
As well as delivering sessions in schools and youth clubs, other promising approaches to reach those on the cusp of crime and encouraging them to make positive choices are happening across the region and the PCC has tasked her Violence Reduction Unit with developing and expanding this work as top priority.
A&E navigators. A&E offers a key touch point for specialists to engage with vulnerable young people who present with injuries and issues which may be a symptom of involvement in serious violence and wider organised crime and vulnerability. The team are therefore looking to explore working closely with health professionals to implement ‘navigators’ into hospitals. The navigators will be there to care, guide and provide practical support in a non-judgemental way to people who may be experiencing trauma and serious adversity.
Student support champions. Champions are now on hand in targeted schools across Newcastle. The champions work to build trusted relationships with young people so they have someone to confide in and get support. A regular presence in the schools, part of the job is identifying young people in need of support in the first place so they can refer them to services and interventions to help them and their families. Kim is keen to expand the scheme further.
New team clamping down on known offenders. A new team has recently been deployed in Sunderland City Centre, focussed on clamping down on known offenders. The team works with identified individuals known for being involved in violence. The message to them is clear – engage with the mentors, and programmes that are being offered or there will be significant consequences.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “Every time we lose a young life to violence we are reminded of just how important the prevention work we are doing is. My Violence Reduction Unit is tasked with bringing everyone together and saying we will not accept violence in our region and this is how we are going to fight it.
“Nothing I can say will bring back the lives tragically lost in recent months but I can say there is a lot of work happening and we desperately want to be scaling it up and reaching more and more impressionable young kids. You see, it’s not just about officers on the streets and catching those carrying knives. I want to reach kids before that – I want to get in there before a weapon reaches their hands.”
Asked whether she thinks the problem is getting worse, the Commissioner said:
“Yes, I do think it feels like things have got worse over the last decade or so. That’s everywhere – up and down the country – and we are clearly not immune to it up here. That’s why we need to throw everything we have at this – more of the mentoring, the youth diversion schemes, the early interventions. And everyone: parents, teachers, friends we all need to be the having conversations, raising awareness, creating positive opportunities.”
She added: “Crucially let’s not forget the bigger picture either. We have to look at the causes. The links between poverty, deprivation and serious violence are clear. In 80% of our harm hotspot areas in Northumbria, 1 in 10 people suffer from income deprivation. We fight poverty, we fight crime”.