June 18, 2021. News
A public health approach to tackling serious violence: First VRU Strategic Needs Assessment published
Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) has published its first annual Strategic Needs Assessment document, presenting detailed insights into the prevalence and root causes of violence.
It draws together data from multi-agency partners and uses the latest analytical techniques to produce a detailed understanding of the current volume of serious violence, where it takes place and who is most at risk. Currently produced annually, it is hoped to become a “live” system in coming months, providing the most up-to-date data and insight.
Throughout the process of developing the assessment, the VRU has worked with partners including Thames Valley Police, local authorities, health, youth offending, probation and prisons services, education and public health.
The document informs local partners across the Thames Valley, helping them to plan their local response to serious violence and to address its causes at the earliest point. From increasing diversion work with young people, more support for those who are vulnerable, to more targeted policing operations in hot spot areas and against those who pose the greatest risk.
The Strategic Needs Assessment supports the adoption of a public health approach to tackle serious violence, as set out in the government’s 2018 Serious Violence Strategy.
This means greater emphasis placed by policing and partner agencies on prevention and early intervention work. By identifying protective and risk factors and addressing them, much violence can be prevented.
Key baseline findings presented in the Strategic Needs Assessment include:
- In the financial year 2020/21, there were 2,086 Serious Violence against Victim (SVV) offences in 2020/21, compared to 2,661 in 2019/20. This represents a 22% decrease in 2020/21 compared to 2019/20.
- Serious violence is estimated to have cost £54,171,271, a 9% decrease on costs in the 2019/20 financial year. £50 million of these costs are associated with homicides experienced in the Thames Valley, which carry exceptionally high cost. With these removed, Serious Violence cost £3,985,786, a reduction of over £2 million from 2019/20.
- Between April 2020 and February 2021, 1,311 Knife Crimes were recorded in the Thames Valley, compared to 1,471 between April 2019 and February 2020. This represents an 11% decrease in Knife Crime during 2020/21. There was a 2% reduction in the percentage of Knife Crime that was Domestic Violence related, from 25% in 2019/20 to 23% in 2020/21.
- Unsurprisingly, serious violence occurs most frequently in urban and most populated parts of the force area. Analysis of serious violence between 2015 and 2020 found that crimes were heavily concentrated – over 30% of all of the Serious Violence in this time period occurred in an area less than 0.2% of the total force area.
The Strategic Needs Assessment explores those risk factors that evidence has shown increase the prevalence of serious violence and has informed new programmes of work for the coming year. This includes:
- Deprivation is a key risk factor, with the three most deprived areas in the Thames Valley, including Milton Keynes, Slough and Reading also recording the highest levels of serious violence. As detailed above, specific urban and even street-level locations are hotspots for violence. This analysis will be used to inform hotspot policing operations as well as wider partner activity in these areas.
- Offender/victim overlap: Of 3,412 suspects of serious violence, 11% had been a victim in violence with an injury. Of 2,166 victims of serious violence, 11% had been a been a suspect in an incident of violence with injury. There is also evidence of increased domestic violence. Greater work with those vulnerable to violence can keep them safe and prevent further incidents.
- Drug use is a risk factor, with 11% of suspects of serious violence also suspect in a drugs offence, similarly 5% of those victims were also suspect in a drugs offence. Meanwhile, the numbers of deaths from drugs misuse has increased in the Thames Valley. The Violence Reduction Unit has a dedicated workstream focused on drugs, county lines and harm reduction work as well as exploitation.
- Exclusions from school have continued to rise in the Thames Valley and there is a clear link between those who are exposed to serious violence offences and continued absence from school. There is a growing programme of work with schools to support them, to educate and engage with young people and particularly those at risk of exclusion.
- Police custody a key intervention point: Of 3,412 suspects of serious violence, 52% had been in custody in the previous two years. Similarly, of 2,166 victims, 32% had been in custody in the previous two years. Further work is now underway to develop and join up programmes of intervention and diversion for those entering custody.
Stan Gilmour, the Director of the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit, said:
“I am immensely proud of our first Strategic Needs Assessment, behind which sits a cutting-edge data analytics platform and a great deal of hard work from our partners.
“We know that tackling serious violence is not just a policing matter; violence can be treated like a disease and it is preventable.
“It requires all agencies to work together, across our organisational boundaries. We must put in place support networks for the vulnerable, diversion activities to give people a chance to turn their lives around, and focused deterrents and enforcement against those most at risk of committing violence.
“There is also a role for everyone in our communities; helping to support young people, to create opportunities for them, to prevent and address early adversity and trauma in young people.”
Matthew Barber, Police & Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley, said:
“Serious violence, especially knife crime, destroys – or tragically ends – too many lives. The police are key to tackling this challenge through enforcement but to end this public health crisis we need every agency and every part of society to be involved.
“This important report will help all of our partners to better understand the challenges we all need to address in order to reduce violence and save lives.”