Law enforcement and criminal justice measures are only part of the response needed to tackle serious violent crime. A multi-agency partnership approach is required, working across Government departments and all agencies, including the police, health, charities and a range of local government services such as, education, social services and youth services.
- Knife crime has a devastating impact on victims, their families, and communities. The increase in such crimes committed by young people is of severe concern to local government, and we share the Government’s desire to address this issue.
- The LGA supports recent efforts by the Government to tackle knife crime, including the ban on items such as ‘Zombie Knives’ which came into effect on the 14 June, in line with the Offensive Weapons Act. It is important however that an evidence based approach is considered, taking stock of research from College of Policing that suggests a multi-agency approach is adopted.
- Law enforcement and criminal justice measures are only part of the response needed to tackle serious violent crime. A multi-agency partnership approach is required, working across Government departments and all agencies, including the police, health, charities and a range of local government services such as, education, social services and youth services.
- By identifying the early indicators and risk factors of serious violence, this can help key agencies to implement the right interventions and divert individuals away from violent crime. As shown in the LGA’s Breaking the cycle of youth violence paper, taking a public health approach to reducing violence recognises the necessity both of gaining an understanding of violence through evidence and of responding to the problem through carefully designed interventions.
- The risk of being exploited or involved in violent crime can be reduced with the correct interventions. Alongside health and education partners, local authorities are well placed to take advantage of ‘reachable and teachable moments’ and identify which interventions are most effective and how they can be implemented.
- It is imperative to take whole systems approach. Parents, teachers and youth workers are all well placed to help provide guidance and support for when a young person transitions to adulthood. If there is not adequate investment in children and youth services, we will not be able to tackle serious violence.
- As part of this multi-agency approach to tackling knife crime, the LGA is calling for investment in council-run youth services, which have seen a funding reduction by more than two-thirds in real terms since 2010/11, from £1.4 billion to £429 million. The investment sought by the LGA includes the Government’s £500 million Youth Investment Fund – first promised in September 2019 - to be made available as soon as possible and for the restoration of £1.7 billion in lost Early Intervention Grant.
Police Crime and Sentencing Bill
- Currently at Second Reading in the House of Lords, The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill covers a wide range of community safety issues including offensive weapons and serious violent crime.
- The Bill outlines a duty to work collaboratively between chief officers of police, specified health authorities, local authorities, probation service providers, youth offending teams and fire and rescue services. While the LGA supports this opportunity for collaborative working, it is essential that councils are given the tools they need to deliver any new statutory duties.
- As part of the PCSC Bill, the Government are introducing a requirement on the police, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups in England and local health boards in Wales to review the circumstances of certain homicides where the victim was aged 18 or over outlined as the Offensive Weapons Homicide Review.
- The LGA welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the eradication of offensive weapons from our communities. It is imperative that new statutory duties are however properly funded through long-term mechanisms and robust guidance issued in a timely manner in all areas relating to the Offensive Weapons Homicide Review.
- The Bill also includes a new legal duty relevant to local authorities, the police, criminal justice agencies, health and fire and rescue services to share data and intelligence in cases concerning serious violence. This is known as the serious violence duty and the Government has suggested this will complement their investment in the 18 Violence Reduction Units (VRUs).
- It is critical that local government is allocated the resources needed to deliver the serious violence duty, that Violence Reduction Units are extended to all police forces in England and Wales, and for them to have five years long-term funding, rather than year-on-year commitments.
- It is also critical that the Government work with local authorities, and the LGA, to invest fully in children and youth services, which are key to tackling serious violence. There are concerns about elements of the Bill that see additional responsibilities placed on youth offending teams, which have already seen their funding cut by half over the last decade.
- A cross-Whitehall strategy is needed that ensures the services that support children and their families, as well as fight against serious violent crime, are fully funded.
Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs)
- Should Knife Crime Protection Orders (KCPOs) be introduced nationally following the trials in London announced in July, it is essential to ensure the new orders effectively tackle knife crime. These orders should not contribute to the unnecessary criminalisation of young people and should not disproportionately target any one community or group.
- As outlined in our submission to the Government consultation on KCPOs, The LGA is concerned that KCPOs may criminalise vulnerable children at a point at which they most need support. There needs to be clear and conclusive evidence that the new orders will tackle knife crime and will not contribute to the unnecessary criminalisation of young people.
- It is important that any new costs to local government associated with Knife Crime Protection Orders (KCPOs) are fully funded. Without additional resources, the new responsibilities placed on youth offending teams (YOTs) to monitor compliance with KCPOs will risk the vital work that these organisations do to prevent young people from becoming involved in criminal activity. A full assessment is needed to assess the potential impact to youth offending teams and other bodies who will be expected to supervise compliance with KCPOs.
- Assessment of funding is especially important as government funding for YOTs reduced from £145 million in 2010/11 to £78.3 million for 2021/22. This funding needs to increase to enable them to continue to support young people.
- We are also concerned around the interaction between county lines operations and serious violent crime, specifically around the correlation between increased drug dealing and knife crime and the impact this has on children.
- The increased deliberate targeting of women and young girls who are both subject to serious violent crime and being increasingly recruited into the transportation of weapons and drugs across boroughs must also be addressed.
- It is evident that knife crime and county lines activity are linked and that in order to tackle these issues, there is a need to focus on multi-agency working to address the root causes of serious violence and put greater emphasis and investment towards early intervention and prevention.