English authorities hope to follow Scottish success in tackling knife crime
Police chiefs in England are aiming to copy Scottish success in using a public health approach to reduce knife crime.
Action taken north of the border, where Glasgow was once dubbed the murder capital of Europe, has seen the number of homicides drop by 39% in a decade.
The fundamental idea is that violent crime should be treated like a disease, tackling the causes as well as the consequences to prevent it spreading.
In 2005, after Scotland had seen 137 murders in a year including 41 in Glasgow alone, a violence reduction unit (VRU) was set up by Strathclyde Police in a bid to stem the bloodshed.
As well as traditional law enforcement, including the fingerprint and DNA testing of all knife carriers, the team’s new approach was to work with teams in fields such as social work, health and education.
The following year the VRU became a national unit and has continued, with a current annual budget of around £1 million, to back a wide variety of initiatives.
These include offering young people at risk of being drawn into violent crime, or who already have convictions, alternatives such as training, jobs and youth clubs.
There are also schemes that support parents, aim to reduce domestic violence – a key cause for children who go on to commit violent crime – and tackle alcohol abuse.
And it aims to gather better data on injuries to identify new trends in violence at an early stage and intervene.
London has set up its own violence reduction unit to bring together the police, health workers and staff from local councils, and Home Secretary Sajid Javid is backing the public health approach nationally.
However, last month his Cabinet colleague Health Secretary Matt Hancock flew in the face of expert opinion by arguing against the idea.
He told LBC: “If you try to say it’s a public health issue, that implies it’s nobody’s fault. The criminals are the murderers. It’s their fault. You have got to start from the point of the perpetrator being brought to justice.”
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