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West Midlands Police Federation

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Joint approach needed to tackle youth violence, says Fed chair

1 August 2019

Police officers should be allocated to all schools with an above average risk of serious youth violence, according to a new report from the Home Affairs Select Committee.

The officers would follow a Government re-investment in policing to allow forces to increase community prevention activity and neighbourhood policing to help tackle the upsurge in youth violence.

But Rich Cooke, chair of West Midlands Police Federation, says the current crisis cannot be tackled by the police alone and that school based officers would only be part of the solution.
“The report says young people have been failed by the Government and that this has caused a devastating loss of life; clearly the Government must take urgent note,” Rich explains.

“But I don’t agree that we necessarily need officers in schools all the time. Schools themselves and children’s families have a big part to play in ensuring behaviour and discipline is restored to what it should be. This cannot just be left to the police who all too often are called in when things have already gone badly wrong.
 
“Having said that, we definitely need to have more officers so that we can be far more visible in communities as well as schools and this should be the first priority of the Government. However, as identified last week when the Government announced plans to recruit 20,000 new officers over the next three years, we also need the local police stations, police bases, training teams and equipment to be able to support these new recruits.”
 
The report, published yesterday, follows an inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee which 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:

  • The Prime Minister to take personal responsibility for reducing serious youth violence
  • A list of accountable leaders in every region or county of England and Wales who should report directly to Downing Street and bring together those who need to work together to drive down youth violence
  • ‘Substantial’ extra funding for policing to enable forces to recruit additional officers and staff to respond to serious organised crime and increase community prevention activity, neighbourhood policing and schools officers; all schools with an above average risk of serious youth violence to have a dedicated school police officer
  • The introduction of a fully-funded, statutory minimum provision for youth outreach workers and community youth projects in all areas, co-designed with local young people. This would result in a national Youth Service Guarantee, with increased and ringfenced funding from central Government.

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.”
 
Read the report