With the country seeing a significant rise in serious violence, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens has been working with the police and local businesses on early intervention projects to offer young people an alternative.
PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “Violence is like a disease – it becomes infectious and will spread through a community like a wildfire. It will pass down through generations unless we break the cycle and deal with the root causes.”
This was brought strikingly home to the PCC by Bristol Chief Inspector Gary Haskins who shared the true and sad tale of arresting a young man in his teens who he had originally seen as a young child. Many years before he had knelt down to comfort the boy at his home during the arrest of his older brother and said to him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He replied: “I want to join the blood gang”.
The PCC added: “If someone that young can only aspire to join the criminal role models around them then we truly have failed as a society.”
Sue believes we all have a collective responsibility to create a less violent society, she says the key to solving the issue is to work together; “the antidote is to target our resources collectively; to provide better opportunities for our young people through early intervention and prevention in collaboration with our communities, voluntary and public sector partners.” She shared these views with Policing and Fire Minister, Nick Hurd MP in November 2018 at she jointly hosted the Home Office Serious Violence Engagement Event in Bristol.
For early intervention to work we need to offer our young people an alternative. They need inspiration. In 2016, Avon and Somerset PCC gave local entrepreneur Clayton Planter a small one-off grant to run his first Street2Boardroom project. Clayton saw his fair share of friends turning to the wrong side of the law to make money and he grew increasingly aware of the entrepreneurial spirit of those who had chosen another path.
“These guys are ambitious, they’re sophisticated people managers, they’re strategic planners and they’re risk-takers – the only difference is that they’re making their money outside the law,” he says. “I realised that if these guys could be given the confidence to develop a career within a corporate environment, they could really flourish – because many of them were business geniuses.”
Street2Boardroom initially started as an eight-week motivational course. Now Street2Boardrom is providing extra courses and working beyond Bristol. He’s also supporting a new project by Avon and Somerset Constabulary led by Chief Inspector Gary Haskins called “The Call In.” Launched in February, 2019, it offers young people an alternative to prosecution; “It’s a way to avoid the criminal justice system by engaging with a host of partners and mentors who can provide opportunities, tailor made for each individual, and which can set them on a different path. Although this is just a pilot, my hope is that we will provide a blueprint for breaking the cycle of crime and prosecution which sees so many young people’s potential wasted,” says Chief Inspector Gary Haskins.
In December, Avon and Somerset PCC received £495,000 from the Home Office Early Intervention Youth Fund for Barnardo’s to deliver dedicated support service called ROUTES to children and young people at risk of being the victim or perpetrator of serious violent crime.
Sinitta Watkins, Barnardo’s Team Manager for ROUTES, said: “We need to work with community groups and partner agencies to ensure we are receiving referrals for those who are deemed most at risk. Young people with ambitions, hopes and dreams are having their childhoods stolen by serious violence and this needs to stop.”
Over the coming months ROUTES will offer one-to-one intervention, targeted group work sessions and preventative group work sessions to victims and perpetrators across Avon and Somerset.
Read the full report from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners here.
Posted on Monday 18th March 2019