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In December 2017 the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner announced he would spend an extra £2 million tackling gangs and violence over the next two years.

The investment, by David Jamieson, is in response to a 201 page report which he commissioned following an increase in violent crime in the West Midlands.

The funding will be put in place for a wide range of projects, including:

  • A team of expert negotiators to defuse violence between gangs and to help individuals escape a life of crime.
  • A team of youth workers to be placed in Accident and Emergency departments to identify young people caught in a cycle of violence.
  • A mentoring scheme to help young people, at risk of offending, make the right life choices.
  • A package of support will be put in place to rehabilitate ex-offenders as they leave prison and re-enter their communities. The aim is to break the cycle of crime.
  • A set of programmes designed to provide alternative activities for young people at risk of school exclusion and offending.

The Police and Crime Commissioner is already supporting the Commission’s recommendations by introducing Police Cadet Units in areas affected by gangs and violence; supporting a multi-million pound programme to help young people, on the brink of criminality, find training and work; funding an extensive anti-violence programme in schools and bringing in a team of experts who will be based in hospitals to identify young people involved in violence and divert them away from a life of crime.

This investment by the PCC follows a recent and sustained increase in gun and knife crime. The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, said: “When gangs and violence strike it plagues our communities indiscriminately, leaving victims in its wake.

“This comprehensive report has clarified and deepened our understanding of the causes of these crimes and what circumstances lead people to turn to violent crime.

“In order to help reverse the current rise I will invest an extra £2 million from my budget to tackle the causes of violent crime.

“Whilst investment of this sort is much needed, I am more than aware that I can’t tackle this issue alone. Neither can the police simply arrest their way out of the situation. That is why I am delighted the local communities will take a lead on reaching out to vulnerable and easily led young people who may be about to make the wrong life choices.

“In years gone by we’ve made big strides in reducing violence on our streets, only to see some of those improvements slip away in recent years. As a society we must treat this issue with the consistency that we do terrorism or child safeguarding. This means our response must not cease once the current spike in violent crime is under control. Lessons from the last fifteen years show us, that it is once we let up that problems return. We must tackle the causes of violent crime 365 days a year.”

In 2012 the number of gun crime incidents in the West Midlands stood at 459, but by 2016 that number had risen to 584. At 19 per 100,000 people, the West Midlands has a relatively high prevalence of gun crime. The England and Wales average is only 9 per 100,000 people. It is important to note that firearms data includes offences where a firearm has been used as a threat or blunt instrument. The number of discharges is far smaller. 0.5% of all gun crimes in 2016 were murders.  3.8% were attempted murders.

Bishop Derek Webley, Chair of the Gangs and Violence Commission said: “After what appeared to be a sustained period of calm, a rise in the number of gang and knife related incidents had altered that trend in a way that became quite disconcerting.

“On the back of that situation the Police and Crime Commissioner invited me to chair a commission to address the issue.

“The Report looked closely at the current situation, the causes and the solutions.

“Tackling this problem isn’t easy. There are no quick fixes.

“We know we need all the authorities, various bodies and communities to work together to solve the problem.

“I am sure that, by drawing on that collective wisdom, we can find a number of solutions going forward that will make our city and region a safer place to live, work and socialise.”

Knife crime in the West Midlands has also risen in recent years from a low in 2012.  In 2012 there were 1,566 knife crime incidents. By 2016 that number had risen to 2,296.

Download the summary report and recommendations

Commission on Gangs and Violence: Uniting to improve safety

Download the full report report and recommendations

Commission on Gangs and Violence: Uniting to improve safety

Since the Commission was established in 2017, significant progress has been made in delivering the 24 recommendations which came out of the 2017 report:

From the outset, community involvement was paramount in all of this work. As the Commissioner said in his foreword to the 2017 ‘Uniting To Improve Safety’ report, “the Commission on Gangs and Violence will be community led, with the support of statutory agencies, not the other way around.” This piece of work has since received Home Office recognition in October 2019, as an example of best practice in achieving a community-informed, community-led approach to tackling serious violence. (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/preventing-serious-violence-a-multi-agency-approach)

Within this piece of work, many projects have been funded, with the aim of preventing individuals from becoming involved in serious violence.  Gangs and Violence projects, in all, have delivered diversionary activities to over 5000 young people. They range from weekly sports sessions, media projects in schools, community outreach, targeted programmes in schools with young people at risk of gangs and violence, group and 1:1 work with gang affiliated young women, youth leadership courses, and parent training.

We also funded two community development workers and a community facilitator, who have been able to assist community organisations in their development and give the office an insight into ‘life on the ground’.

Moreover, we have funded a project that will help support the families of victims of crime and a social media project that will help to spread positive news about the work being done within this agenda.

A number of intervention activities have also been funded, to prevent those individuals who have already offended, from re-offending. Mentoring services, a mediation service to help de-escalate potential incidents of violence and resettlement services, which provide a comprehensive ‘intervention and support package’ for individuals who leave prison, have all been funded. A business/employment mentoring service has also been commissioned, which will aim to get individuals associated with crime into employment, or provide them with help in starting their own businesses.

The Commission was also a key foundation for the creation of the WM Violence Reduction Unit. A lot of the work from this project has also now been picked up by the VRU, to reflect the importance of this project. For example, the WMVRU are now aiming to create a faith alliance, pulling together senior members across various religious groups, with the aim of pooling their collective assets, expertise and experiences. This work, amongst other things, is now being progressed by the WMVRU, after being initiated through a Commission recommendation.

By the end of the PCC’s term, a review of the Commission will be published. This will set out successes of the process and any areas where there could have been improvements, making sure that any learning is taken from this process.