New strategy to address violent crime in Coventry

Agencies in Coventry will be setting out a strategy this week to expand the work currently underway to tackle violent crime in the city.

On Wednesday, dozens of organisations, community groups and campaigners will be setting out a new strategy and highlighting the work that they are doing to address violent crime.

A youth violence prevention board has been meeting regularly to bring more organisations together.

Mike O’Hara, Chief Superintendent, Coventry Police, said having a multi-agency approach was vital. He added, “Obviously we’ll take firm action against anyone linked to violent crime in the city.

“Last year we achieved some notable successes: significant arrests, weapons and drugs seizures, and out-of-city placements for 15 men linked to gang crime. These were removed from Coventry – with three taken out of the UK completely – in order to diffuse tensions and protect the public.

“However, we can’t police our way out of this problem and that’s why we now have a broader approach. All agencies are looking at this by working with families, schools, and communities; it’s a public health approach which focuses first and foremost on prevention and safeguarding our young people.

“In the past 12 months, we have had funding for many projects but we now want to set out a long term strategy.”

Agencies including Positive Youth Foundation, Catch 22, St Giles Trust, the Council, West Midlands Police, City of Culture Trust, schools, faith groups, campaign and community groups are all working as part of a coordinated effort to help children and young people shape the way the issue of violence is addressed.

Rashid Bhayat, Founder of the Positive Youth Foundation in Coventry, and also a Trustee of the City of Culture Trust, added, “Violent crime is devastating for the victims, their families and friends. We must do more to understand how a minority of young people have ended up in these circumstances and respond with challenge and support in equal measure.

In the past 12 months, the city has brought in £1m to tackle violence in Coventry. Cllr Abdul Salam Khan, Cabinet Member for Policing and Equalities, said, “Our approach in Coventry recognises the role everyone has and starts with safeguarding young people. 

“We recognise that the police cannot tackle this alone and twelve months ago we held a summit to bring agencies together. Since then we have been making progress; bringing in funding for innovative projects and building on the good community and schools work that was already in place.”

The West Midlands Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Ashley Bertie, said: “Since 2012, we have seen an increase in violent crime across the region and Coventry is not immune. In the West Midlands police force area knife crime has more than doubled since 2014/15 from 1,722 incidents to 3,722 in 2018/19.

“A multi-agency public health approach to tackling violence is needed, which is why we have set up the Violence Reduction Unit. The VRU was established to tackle the root causes of crime and, in the process, reduce the number of victims and perpetrators.”

“The Coventry Youth Violence Prevention Board will be key in bringing together agencies from across the city, to ensure the problem of rising levels of violence is tackled by all.”

The Bishop of Coventry, the Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth, said: “Violence among young people is one of the most pressing and distressing issues facing Coventry today, but there’s hope to be found.

“There’s hope in the creativity and resolve of young people themselves, hope in the leadership of our statutory bodies, and hope in the compassion of the third sector.

“There’s also hope to be drawn from the churches and other faith communities in Coventry who have much to offer. I’m excited to be part of a new initiative, to be launched at next week’s Summit, that has the vision to create safe spaces for young people in places of worship across our city.”

Examples of projects underway include:

  • Supporting Families Against Youth Crime Fund £477,000.00, from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
  • June 2019, a new service launched to offer support to children and families where there is a concern about a young person at risk being exploited by a gang.