Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner -  
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PCC secures funding for community projects aimed at tackling serious youth violence

Around £35,000 has been awarded to community projects to divert young people away from knife crime and other serious violence.

Grassroots initiatives across the county will benefit from a portion of the £1.4 million funding awarded to us to tackle serious youth violence.

The successful projects include refurbishment work and outreach groups who can engage with communities through activities such as sport, music and drama.

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, said: “This money is particularly vital because we all know that only the communities themselves understand which approach to driving down knife carrying, gang membership and gun use are going to work with their own young people.

“In Bedfordshire, I’ve insisted that we go one step further and put the bids for these funds before panels made up of members from the worst affected communities, so that they have a say at the earliest possible part of this process.

“It’s clear, isn’t it, that neither police nor local authorities can impose solutions that work? It’s no good just saying we must work together with our public, we must actually get on and do it. That means that I’m not just looking for all the ‘usual suspects’ to apply for grant funding, but for brand new projects.

“My office is prepared to support them to the hilt but, of course, this means that they have to understand from the get-go that the money comes from the Government, my office and the force, and that means that there is an absolute requirement for every single person linked to the projects to be completely separate from any active involvement in any form of criminality, including the use of drugs.”

We are one of 18 police forces across the country to receive funding from the Home Office to tackle serious youth violence.

The funding so far has been spent on patrols to target hotspots which have seen an increase in serious youth violence, as well as speeding up the force’s forensic work.

Bedfordshire has also received £880,000 to establish a Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit, working with partners such as councils and the health service to tackle the root causes of violence and exploitation.

Around a quarter of this funding is also due to be made available to community projects that can divert young people away from gangs.

The announcement comes in the same week that we are supporting Operation Sceptre – a week-long operation dedicated to tackling knife crime.

During the week, the force has been running operational activity including weapons sweeps, to recover weapons that have been hidden for future use or discarded, and patrols in knife crime hotspot areas.

Bedfordshire Police’s Assistant Chief Constable, Jackie Sebire, who is also the National Police Chiefs Council’s lead for serious youth violence, said: “Investing in and strengthening our communities to help them divert young people away from knife crime is absolutely crucial if we are to get a grip on this problem.

“As has been said time and again, increased enforcement, while having an important role in removing the highest threats and giving communities some respite, cannot be the sole answer. Prevention, as always, is better than cure.

“That’s why I am delighted to be helping such a diverse range of projects in our communities.”

Successful projects

Mastroe - £5,000

Change The Narrative (CTN) project to be delivered in Bedford

This project will provide media training, mentoring and development to 12 young people over the course of 10 weeks. The training will incorporate key aspects of media including photography, videography and video editing. The trainees will work together in teams / groups to create video content geared towards changing mindsets and informing young people of the dangers of a life of violence and other opportunities for success outside of crime and violence. The programme will also be used to also teach the trainees project management.

Houghton Regis Town Council - £5,000

Serious Knife Crime – prevention and awareness to be delivered in Dunstable and Houghton Regis

The programme will use peer education to deliver anti-knife messages around actions, outcomes and consequences. The Youth Council will promote the opportunity for young people to sign up to form a group to undertake a programme of education and awareness, including a visit to the Ben Kinsella Exhibition. The programme will help to develop their awareness and understanding and the group will use their knowledge to complete a peer education programme / anti-knife campaign to the wider community.

Shefford Town Council - £5,000

Refurbish a redundant building for youth development work in Shefford

Over the last few years Shefford Town Council has been developing a youth strategy that allows provision of facilities for young people to encourage them to take an interest in their community.

With the provided funding they will bring back into use a building that was built and used previously as a changing room for a junior football club. They will use the building for a dedicated Youth Hub. The location lends itself to many creative activities, including sports.

However, this space will also be used to facilitate a bike repair project, mentoring young people, employment support and drop in sessions.

RAMDA - £4,980

Engage, Inspire and accomplish based in Luton 

This project is working with families from ethnic minority backgrounds, especially the Somali community and their young people, by diverting young people with issues around serious violence away from offending and re-offending through sports activities, leisure and group workshops.

It will reduce social isolation for children and young people through facilitating activities, and will also support families to access development support.

Halleema Ali - £4,950

22 Seconds To Murder- looking to deliver out of Luton

22 Seconds To Murder was launched in February 2019 and proved so popular that it gained media publicity on the BBC. It was in memory of Azaan Kaleem, who was the victim of a fatal 22 second attack. This project engages young people through the medium of art and performances, by tackling a heavy topic in a creative way. It also allows families, staff and other relevant organisations to be part of the conversation, by providing a holistic approach.

Bruno’s Brazilian Soccer School, based in the Bedford area - £5,000

Unite to learn and play

Unite to learn and play is an educational project aimed at 40 men and boys from the ages of 16 to 25. The project will run all year round and the objective is to run classroom-based English and Maths lessons, and employment skills workshops, combined with football training and games. They will also run gang workshops to educate vulnerable teenagers away from joining a gang by providing them with the tools to say ‘no’ to gangs, and where necessary to leave a gang they may already be part of.

The project will run a Saturday league football team for the students who regularly attend, in order to give an incentive for them and to also bring different nationalities and cultures together. The project will be working in partnership with McDonald’s and He By Juniors barber shop on Midland Road, who will offer work experience and possibly job opportunities to anyone who attends the course. 

Grand Union Housing Group - £4,950

Think B4 U Bother - outreach based in Central Bedfordshire

Think B4 U Bother is a weekly detached youth work programme and resource kit. It has three strands:

  • Educational – Awareness raising
  • Physical - diversionary activity
  • Mentoring - supporting those in need.

The Grand Union youth team feel that meeting, supporting and engaging with young people who are considered hard to reach, at risk or involved in criminal exploitation or anti-social behaviour, and going to the places they hang out, has a higher chance of success.

This project focusses on the youth workers walking to parks, streets, bus stops and other hotspot areas identified to build rapport and engage with young people. Some young people may also engage in sporting activity set up through the project.