Thames Valley Together

Thames Valley Together (TVT) is a cloud-based environment where strategic partners can share our data and drive analytics. This programme has only been possible due to the continued strong collaboration between VRU partner organisations. This programme has huge opportunities to revolutionise our work in improving the health and welling of our communities. The VRU of the Thames Valley are the national leads for Data and Analytics.

Background to Thames Valley Together

There are a number of drivers for TVT, not least that nationally offences involving knives or sharp instruments increased by 84 percent between the year to June 2014 and the year to June 2020. In the year ending March 2021 there were 1.8 million offences of violence against a person recorded by the police in England and Wales. In 2020 the overall number of homicides with a knife as the method of killing increased on the previous year to the second highest ever annual figure since 1946. This resulted in the government’s Serious Violence Strategy 2018 and to the establishment of the Violence Reduction Units in 2019.

The Serious Violence Strategy 2018  set out the substantial public interest in reducing serious violence, given the human and financial costs, not just to policing but across the public sector. The Serious Violence Duty being enacted under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 requires Police Services, Local Authorities, Fire and Rescue authorities, specified criminal justice agencies and health authorities to work together to formulate an evidence-based analysis of the problems associated with serious violence in a local area. It requires us to produce and implement a strategy detailing how they will respond to those particular issues.

These public authorities will be encouraged to place an emphasis on early intervention with young people in order to prevent them from becoming either a victim or perpetrator of serious violence in the first place. TVT is key to meeting this legal duty and delivering a multi-agency data informed public health approach. A public health approach will tackle the root causes of violence by focusing on risk and protective factors for violence.

The Home Office has produced guidance on what risk and protective factors are, and this document references the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. These risk and protective factors are wide ranging and data/information on these factors are spread across our public sector organisations. Only by working together can we understand them. Improving them will have implications beyond crime, to health and wellbeing. As far back as 1996, The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised violence as a leading public health challenge and in 2002 the WHO declared it preventable. However, it is only preventable by focusing on these risk and protective factors.

Key learning from our TVT pre-curser proof of concept work has been that previous data sharing to inform needs assessments have not focused on risk and protective factors and that when multiagency data is shared, it is often at aggregate level, limiting the insights that can be drawn from it. For example, missing data or double counting of incidents/people is a significant limitation. Critically, the single biggest Home Office finding from serious case reviews (as they were known) is that data/intelligence was not appropriately used across agencies to identify risk before harm takes place. A public health approach can address this by not being constrained to organisational boundaries, focusing on long-term and short-term solutions.

TVT provides a secure way of sharing our data to deliver strategic insights and help our staff make better tactical decisions. The VRU can have joint aims of improving these risk and protective factors and measure the benefit across the public sector. We can end the outdated repetitive cycle of sharing out of date data and have live measures of what’s most important. In short we will measure what counts and improve them.

Progress to date

Progress to date has seen the establishment of a TVT core team to deliver a data architecture which can allow sharing and matching of data in a secure, auditable cloud-based environment using Microsoft Azure technologies. This consists of a Principle Data Engineer, Data Scientist, Data Analyst, Test Resource, Project Manager and Business Analyst. The technical development is at a mature state and we are pleased to have worked with the National Enablers Programme and more recently The Police Digital Service to ensure we follow the agree technologies in support with national digital transformation. The TVT Azure environments have been created to allow access to the data at the various levels as required in the duty i.e. levels 1, 2 and 3.

As stated the TVT programme has been funded by the Violence Reduction Units core grant fund which is agreed by all partners and then monitored by the Home Office. The delivery of Violence Reduction Units activities, including TVT, is overseen by an Executive Board which is chaired by the Police and Crime Commissioner of the Thames Valley. As the Thames Valley are the National Lead VRU for data analytics, we wish to see learning shared and we will be hosting events with our partners, such as the Wales VRU and the Home Office.

There is a TVT Programme Board, sitting monthly, reporting to the Strategic Board. Critically the Data Ethics Committee has been established. This Committee is made-up of legal and ethical experts from Northumbria University and The University of Oxford. The chair is from the Ethox Centre at Oxford University with experience in data ethics, particularly in health care. There are representatives from the community and the police forces Independent Advisory Group are represented on the committee. The committee will oversee use cases before they go live. We are connected to the national agenda on data ethics via the National Police Chiefs Council leads.

DCI Lewis Prescott-Mayling
Data and Targeting Lead – Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit