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Police and partners pledge to tackle Coventry violence increase

Coventry Police and key partners have vowed to adopt a united front to tackle violence and make the city’s streets safer. 

Senior officers gathered with representatives from Coventry City Council, the health service, education and charities, plus MPs and youth workers, at a Violence Summit today (28 Jan) where a pledge was made to deliver a long-term strategy to address the increase in violent crime.

Coventry Police Commander, Chief Supt Mike O’Hara said his wants to create a taskforce comprising a range of agencies working to address the root causes of violence and intervening early in vulnerable people’s lives before they commit offences.

The move will complement work being done under the West Midlands Violence Prevention Alliance which has adopted a public health approach to tackling violence that recognises policing alone cannot solve the problem.

A similar scheme was introduced by Police Scotland in Glasgow back in 2005 and has since been credited with a 60 per cent drop in the city’s murder rate.

Coventry Police Commander Mike O'Hara wants to form a Violence Reduction Taskforce for the city
Coventry Police Commander Mike O'Hara wants to form a Violence Reduction Taskforce for the city

Chief Supt O’Hara, said: “Coventry has seen a near 20 per cent increase in violent crime – including domestic assaults – in the last 12 months.

“We can’t simply police our way out of this upturn in violent offences. What’s needed is a variety of services and whole communities working towards solutions. We want to divert young people away from crime by offering support at an early stage and better life opportunities.

“Our vision is to fundamentally change the way we look at and tackle violent crime in the city – and the pledge partners have made at the Summit is the first step on the way.”

In the 12 months to September 2018 there were 2,876 violence offences recorded in Coventry, including just over 1,000 domestic incidents. 

The main trouble hotspot was the city centre, associated with the high density of licenced premises, with injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to serious woundings.  

West Midlands Police has responded by making the issue a force priority and committing extra officer resources to target the gangs who are behind much of the violence.

In addition to increased patrols and proactive operations, intelligence work has been going on behind the scenes to more accurately map the make-up of street gangs and organised crime groups operating in Coventry – and to disrupt their activity. 

But Chief Supt O’Hara said early intervention work with children, diverting them away from gangs, is also vitally important. 

He added: “Speaking directly to children in the city is vital; we understand young people may be worried about knife crime and gangs and we take their concerns seriously.

“The answer is certainly not to carry a knife themselves for protection as that increases, not decreases, the risk of becoming a victim.

“We’ve secured a £150,000 grant from the West Midlands Police’s Crime Commissioner to tackle youth crime in the city, and have applied for a further £350,000 through the national ‘Troubled Families’ fund. So hopefully that’ll be half a million pounds we can use to try and address the root causes of youth violence.

“Getting into schools to talk frankly about the shocking consequences of knife possession and gang culture – as well as demonstrating alternative, positive life choices – is key to steering children away from crime.”

West Midlands Police’s Chief Constable Dave Thompson and representatives from Police Scotland – who will discuss the successful Glasgow strategy – are among the other speakers taking part.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, added: “In 2015 I jointly founded the West Midlands Violence Prevention Alliance which brings together partners from West Midlands Police, Public Health England and other voluntary and public sector bodies to take a public health approach to reducing violence.

“In addition to the £150,000 investment from the Early Intervention Youth Fund to divert young people away from crime, I will be expanding work which places youth workers in A&E departments to Coventry to make interventions with young people who have been involved in violent incidents. 

“By working together across the public and voluntary sector and targeting the root cause, we can make Coventry and the West Midlands a safer place to live and work in.”