New Glasgow-style 'violence reduction unit' to launch in bid to tackle 'symptoms' of crime

Tyne and Wear’s policing boss has insisted she is not ‘soft on crime’ as she prepares plans for a ‘violence reduction unit’ in the region.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuiness
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuiness

The government has handed over £1.6million to kick start the initiative, which is intended to ape areas such as Glasgow by taking a ‘public health’ approach to tackling violent crime.

And Kim McGuinness, who was elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Northumbria Police in July, says she hopes to have the scheme up and running by December.

“Crime has symptoms – how do we tackle those?” she asked a meeting of the Northumbria Police and Crime Panel.

“It doesn’t mean we’re soft on crime, we still have to make sure people are held to account, and I’m working with the chief constable to provide officers on the front line with what they need.

“But we also have to look at the public services that have been cut and how to support them.”

McGuinness replaced Dame Vera Baird, Northumbria Police’s first PCC, who stepped down earlier this year to become the national Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales.

The approach pioneered by Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit is credited with halving the annual number of killings north of the border over about 10 years through close working between police, the NHS, social workers, schools and colleges.

But McGuinness also warned the impact of ‘long term austerity policies’ could hamper the scheme and criticised the time limit the Home Office has set for the cash to be spent.

“The money is welcome but the time frame is ridiculous,” the new PCC told the panel.

“We have to have this money spent by March and we know this short term spending won’t solve a long term problem, but I think we can start some really good work.”

She added: “The funding is short term, but this is the approach we would be taking anyway, this is the approach that has been shown to work.

“If you support people you reduce crime.”