Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, has secured a second promise of funding from Government in another Special Grant to pay for the work of Bedfordshire Police’s specialist guns and gangs team – Boson – working to combat serious violence across the county.
Policing Minister, Nick Hurd MP, wrote to PCC Holloway to promise: “We intend to make decisions on Special Grant applications around October 2019 but in the interim I can provide you with the assurance that we will be providing funding for Operation Boson.”
He was replying to the PCC after she provided him with a portfolio detailing the exceptional work of the Boson units, which resulted in 148 years in prison terms for gang members and those using guns and knives over the last year.
Last December, Commissioner Holloway secured a Special Grant of £4.571m to pay for the work of the Boson team over the past three years in fighting an unprecedented rise in gang, gun and knife crime. As a result, Bedfordshire Police was able to create a second specialist Boson team in the north of the county as, originally, the unit was based only in Luton.
“It’s no good simply holding out a hand to ask for more cash without proving that it was a wise investment for the Minister and Home Office to make. Here in Bedfordshire, I’ve been able to list case after case of Boson bringing gang members to court and achieving win after win in terms of jail sentences.
“Now, to assist with my financial planning, the Minister isn’t asking me to wait until October, when most Special Grant bids will be considered; he’s seen the proof for himself of the difference the last grant made and is helping me to help Bedfordshire Police continue to deliver on the outstanding results so far,” said the PCC.
“I’m absolutely delighted to have assurance from the Home Office that the Boson team will again receive extra funding for 2019/20. It’s been well publicised that Bedfordshire has seen an increase in knife crime and we’ve seen the tragic waste of young lives in both Luton and Bedford in the past year. I’ve also sent the Minister details of these terrible events so that it’s not just a case of considering statistics but the real human cost of these crimes.
“Tackling knife crime and serious youth violence is, of course, a huge challenge, but the Force continues to rise to it. In 2018, Boson achieved a total of 148 years in prison sentences for offenders – and it’s important we put those causing the highest harm to our communities behind bars - but preventative work with our young people is also vital. I have also funded genuinely hard-hitting theatre performances in schools across Bedfordshire, delivering key messages to pupils aged 11 and concerning the dangers of being dragged into county lines drug dealing which is so often associated with stabbings or gun crime. This year, we will deliver the same sort of no holds barred production specifically concerning knife crime as I’ve seen and heard the impact these performances made on pupils for myself,” she said.
The PCC intends that her Special Grant bid will not be limited to prosecution of gang members who use weapons alone, given the associated challenge of sexual exploitation that so often accompanies gang membership and grooming.
“It’s my intention to also request funding for Bedfordshire Police’s key child sexual exploitation operations – both current and historic – and some preventative funding too, to fund various anti-gang initiatives. These issues are high risk, represent a high demand on police and have a huge impact on families and communities. To ensure we can continue to tackle them properly, we need significant investment,” said Commissioner Holloway.
Boson is Bedfordshire Police’s unit dedicated to tackling gun and gang activity and serious youth violence which was first formed in 2012 to tackle escalating violence in the Marsh Farm and Lewsey Farm areas of Luton.
Now the units deal with gang, gun and serious youth violence related issues across the whole county, having launched a team to focus on the north of Bedfordshire at the beginning of 2019. The team was intended, initially, to run for three months, but is now permanent thanks to the Special Grant of £4.571m from the Home Office.
The annual cost from the Boson units alone is £2m and associated sexual exploitation cases have cost a further £1m to police.
“While the bid for work we are already having to do to deal with all this criminality is likely to be approximately £3m, if we were funded to take key preventative actions, especially including the child sexual exploitation work, I’m advised that we would need up to £1.5m on top of that and, believe me, my Chief Finance Officer and I will be presenting all the evidence to back the whole claim to the Home Office this autumn.
“Any way you look at it though, this is very good news indeed for Bedfordshire Police,” said the PCC.