Bedfordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway pledged to create a new service to reach children in crime hotspots before they are even born - and in schools before they are 10 - to avoid knife and gang crime, reaching out to older children with the help of doctors, at the launch of a public report into her third year in post, held at the University of Bedfordshire’s Bedford Campus (on Monday 20 May).
Commissioner Holloway announced that she is to develop the Early Pathways service which, like those she created to help victims and ex offenders to access all the relevant support services in the county - Signpost and Direction - will also create an online directory of all quality activities and services in the county to divert kids away from crime to help parents, teachers, youth workers and children themselves, who will be involved in its design. She will also be starting work in schools with local hospitals to reach older children.
"I am going to work with the quite outstanding Operational Medical Director of Luton and Dunstable Hospital, David Kirby, and Bedfordshire Police to give presentations to children concerning the reality of knife carrying, which he sees at first hand since David and his colleagues find themselves working quite literally at the sharp edge of this terrible problem in the A&E Department, trying to save young people with stab wounds,” said the PCC.
"I've also informally proposed development of services with the hospital to help parents to be in crime hotspots, during pregnancy, paid for by the OPCC and partners, which I hope will assist the hospital’s helipad fund and want to brainstorm the ways in which we could deliver this so that we help parents secure a better future for their children, not patronise them.
"I’m absolutely indebted to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital and the attitude of its Medical Director and senior team for their openness to work with me and the Force to do all that we can to prevent children from ending up in A&E with life-threatening - and sometimes life-ending - injuries.
Late last summer, at a community meeting organised by the Youth Offending Service, residents told me that they thought this would be something that could make a difference and this is the chance to take this forward and develop a full service for children and families.
Bedfordshire Police - through the work of ACC Jackie Sebire, the national police lead and the ongoing work of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, with the Policing Minister and Serious Violence team at the Home Office, has just won the opportunity of £1.38m from the Home Office to deal with serious violence.
“I see this as the perfect time for us to use a portion of the funds otherwise dedicated to policing enforcement and intelligence gathering - which are Jackie’s areas of responsibility - to arrange training sessions, ideally backed by a hard-hitting theatre production by Alter Ego, the incredible actors who’ve been touring our schools for me to show those who are 11 and over the dangers of being entrapped in county lines drug dealing. This time we need to reach younger children too as we’re getting to our young people too late with these messages,” said the Commissioner.
"The Luton and Dunstable team has also had such an impact on me with their plans for the proposed helipad, directly above the department and its operating theatres which would serve the county as a whole, that I’m completely convinced that it would help to save young lives. They only need the last £1.5m of what is now a £7m appeal, which is why I'd like to get them over the line and for funds from any joint-working to go to the appeal. I have also made it my charity for my term and will be collecting at all our events on its behalf from now on, said Commissioner Holloway.
Speaking to an audience of guests including Community Safety Partnership members, the Chief Officer of Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, councillors and residents, the Commissioner also spoke of progress made over the past twelve months with Bedfordshire Police against her Police and Crime Plan for the county.
Two particular areas she noted were the doubling of PCs in Communities, as part of a three year recruitment of up to 400 officers - 160 of them this year, of whom 60 will be extra posts - and the launch this month of Direction to help ex offenders source the services they need to lead a life away from crime. The Direction service consists of an online directory - directionforbedfordshire.co.uk - and a freephone call line of specialist helpers on 0800 917 5579 with support for former offenders including help with housing, accommodation, work and benefits, rebuilding family relationships, drug and alcohol dependency and building better health.
Commissioner Holloway and Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire, the national policing lead on Serious Violence, also outlined the plan that will be put by the PCC, with the ACC’s advice, to the Home Office this week to secure an opportunity for £1.38m from the Home Office. The plan includes knife wands first proposed by the PCC to the Force for officers engaged in Stop and Search; to minimise impact on young people who are searched to maintain confidence in police and to prevent injury to officers from knives or contaminated hypodermic needles, during the process.
ACC Sebire said: “Our operational priorities across the county for the year ahead reflect our determination to clamp down on serious youth violence by suppression of criminal activity, with targeted patrols and the proactive targeting of identified areas and people, through carefully harvested intelligence and investigation.
“We will use equipment and technology, such as wands to detect knives when searching a suspect. This will allow us to find weapons faster and will further protect those officers who may otherwise have come into contact with a sharp object, such as a blade or a hypodermic syringe, during the course of their duties.”
Commissioner Holloway also outlined the on-going health-screening collaboration with the University of Bedfordshire which will see the first ever report on the health of an entire UK police force.
The Commissioner explained: “The University has a world class reputation for its Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, why would we not want to make best use of that? The students are in great of need work-related experience and by offering a top-to-toe health screening to every officer and staff member, worth around £200 per person, this will allow us to gather information about the holistic health of the Force. A UK first.”
Contributions to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital Helipad Appeal can be made at justgiving.com/fundraising/ldhhelipad
A copy of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Third Year Report is available to download here.