Avon and Somerset Police will be continuing to focus on reducing serious violence in the year ahead, thanks to a further award of Home Office ‘Grip’ funding.
In 2021 an initial £660k share of Grip funding – which is available to 18 police forces across the UK most affected by serious violence – enabled Avon and Somerset Police to introduce high-visibility insight-led police patrols in areas where evidence suggests serious violence is most likely to occur.
Along with ongoing enforcement, education and prevention work this resulted in 119 fewer street-based violent crimes and 17 fewer serious violent crimes between April 2021 and March 2022. The results mean at least 136 fewer victims living with the trauma of crime and a wealth of police and judicial time and costs saved in bringing perpetrators to justice.
Overall, this represents a three per cent fall in serious violence in the areas which are seeing focused patrols and a fall of four per cent in other less-seriously affected areas of Avon and Somerset. Research data also suggests that the initiative has also helped reduce other crime types within the additional patrol areas, including public order, theft, burglary, robbery and anti-social behaviour.
A report compiled by Cardiff University suggests serious violence has increased by 23 per cent in England and Wale since Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were eased, although the long-term trend for serious violence is still downwards. Recommendations were made by the report authors for precise targeting of police resources in areas where violence is more likely – measures which Avon and Somerset Police are already successfully adopting.
Now Avon and Somerset Police can build on its success with a further £717k share of Grip funding for the year ahead, representing part of a £2.2 million investment over 3 years.
This will be used to fund Grip patrols and continued problem-solving work with external partners in 34 locations (up from 20 locations in 2021/22) that are seeing persistent problems.
Additional patrols will be delivered by neighbourhood policing and patrol officers, tactical support teams and special constables (when not responding to live demand), helping to ensure that police are visibly present at times of the day and night when analysis suggests crimes are most likely to occur.
Avon and Somerset Police’s lead for serious violence, Superintendent Steve Kendall said: “We’re using our budget to deliver patrols that have proven themselves to reduce serious violence and criminal behaviour, into more areas. These patrols help us to provide a visible presence in our communities, making people feel safer and providing more opportunities for the public to engage with us.
“We have numerous examples from the last year of our officers being in the right locations at the right times to break-up fights, arrest wanted offenders, locate knives, arrest people carrying weapons and de-escalate arguments and situations that would otherwise have been likely to lead to violent behaviour.”
“Crucially we have also been there for members of the public to approach us with information or concerns, enabling us to directly respond to them. This helps to break down barriers and build stronger relationships between our officers and the communities they serve, which is essential to tackling crime and keeping Avon and Somerset safe. I’m delighted that funding will continue so we can continue our wide-ranging work to reduce serious violence.”
A recent example involved two officers carrying out daytime patrols around the Harbourside in Bristol who came across an abusive man who was threatening, violent and offensive and whose shouting and swearing was being witnessed by passing children. Officers on hi-visibility patrol moved swiftly to diffuse the situation and arrest the man who was subsequently charged with public order offences, making off without payment and breaching a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) which he had received just two days previously. They were also able to reassure shocked and concerned members of the public.
In addition, prevention and problem-solving work – which sees police working in close partnership with early intervention teams, local authorities and other partners to understand and tackle the underlying causes of serious violence – will be implemented in an additional 36 areas across Avon and Somerset, where initiatives other than Grip patrols are needed.
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford said: “It’s brilliant news that Avon and Somerset Police has received this additional funding from the Home Office, which will allow the service to continue their work tackling serious violence.
“A key focus of my Police and Crime Plan is fighting and preventing crime, and officers are at the very heart of this priority. By being out and about in our communities, engaging with local people and gaining a better understanding of what is happening in our neighbourhoods, Avon and Somerset Police can build better relationships with local people and prevent more residents from becoming victims of serious violence. The increased officer visibility and engagement that will be delivered will also provide much-needed reassurance to the public and continue to make them feel safe in their communities.”
In other work, neighbourhood policing teams in targeted areas will carry out days and weeks of action and work closely with education and youth groups, among other partners, to deter and divert young people who are vulnerable to exploitation and involvement from criminal activity and violence.
Specially trained Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and School Link Officers will continue to provide targeted education to young people in schools and youth settings on a whole host of topics from knife crime through to exploitation.
Meanwhile dedicated officers will focus on tackling County Lines which are heavily associated with serious violence and exploitation. County Lines refers to the trafficking of illegal drugs from major cities into smaller towns and rural areas with organised crime gangs often using mobile phone lines to control mainly young and vulnerable people whom they involve in carrying, storing and selling the drugs.