1 August 2019
Dedicated police officers should be allocated to all schools with an above average risk of serious youth violence, a new report from the Home Affairs Select Committee said today.
The school-based officers would follow a Government re-investment in policing to allow forces to increase community prevention activity, neighbourhood policing and the number of schools officers and help tackle the upsurge in youth violence.
The report says young people have been failed by the Government leading to a devastating loss of life and a social emergency.
Kirsty Bunn, secretary of Derbyshire Police Federation, has welcomed the report and agreed that extra police funding was needed but said, even with additional resources, it would take a partnership approach over a number of years to bring youth violence back under control.
“Just last week we heard the Prime Minister start a recruitment drive aimed at bringing in an extra 20,000 officers over the next three years,” says Kirsty, “Of course, this is welcome news but we are not going to see a dramatic drop in youth violence overnight; it’s a far too complex issue for that to be the case.
“We need to get to the root causes of the violence and develop multi-agency strategies to tackle these. Police officers tend to get called in when things reach crisis point and, while we can be part of prevention and intervention programmes, we need to see all partners working together to tackle issues that have been building up over a number of years during the Government’s austerity measures.
An inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee found the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy was a ‘completely inadequate’ response to the wave of violence sweeping the country, ‘county lines’ and the changing drugs market was contributing to the rise in serious violence, children were being let down by safeguarding systems and more action was needed in terms of prevention and early intervention.
The report points out that police-recorded homicides have increased by over a third in the last five years, and knife offences have risen by over 70 per cent.
The number of under-18s admitted to hospital with knife injuries also rose by a third during 2013-14 and 2017-18. A growing number of young men, in particular, are being murdered on our streets..
The report states: “The current epidemic of youth violence has been exacerbated by a perfect storm emerging from cuts to youth services, heavily reduced police budgets, a growing number of children being excluded from school and taken into care, and a failure of statutory agencies to keep young people safe from exploitation and violence.”
The report’s recommendations call for:
John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, says the report echoes what the Federation has been saying for some time.
“Youth violence is a national emergency that my members are battling every day on our streets. But policing alone cannot solve this problem. There must be significant investment across the public sector to ensure that everything is being done to end this shameful epidemic,” he explains.
“In many cases the only time young people have contact with the police is during an emergency which cannot be right. We need to get back to a situation where police officers are a visible and integral part of the community – a known and approachable presence – offering young people advice and support and providing a deterrent to those considering breaking the law.”