Outdoor gym equipment, youth clubs and outreach programmes are among the projects awarded funding under two new schemes spearheaded by Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway to help divert young people from gang, gun and knife crime.
The majority of funding has come from Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU), the flagship partnership for the county aimed at tackling the root causes of serious violence.
“It’s no good telling young people to do something constructive with their time unless that’s exactly what’s on offer in the neighbourhoods that have been worst affected by gang crime, knife and gun carrying and the destruction of young lives. That’s precisely why, working with local authorities and town councils and the communities themselves, the VERU and I are investing in young people and making safe spaces for them,” said PCC Holloway.
Councils in all three local authority areas in Bedfordshire have been awarded VERU funding for projects which will work with and engage young people.
Money will be invested in fitness equipment for People’s Park in the High Town area of Luton as well as paying for floodlights at the Hart Hill Community Centre.
Activities and projects for young people have also been funded in Ampthill, Flitwick, Potton, Sandy, Shefford, Staploe and Toddington, working closely with the town councils and increasing lighting and safety around existing recreational areas and youth centres.
The projects are part of a comprehensive package of interventions being funded by the VERU over the next few months.
The flagship VERU partnership between the police, local authorities, health, charities and communities has been charged with taking a public health approach to the issue of serious youth violence rather than relying on enforcement alone.
More than £40,000 has been invested in projects which can help young people and, in particular, parents who themselves had difficult upbringings.
A specific project will be carrying out education and skills training in prisons, while further funding has been allocated to the county’s Community Safety Partnerships and youth offending services.
The VERU will also be funding training for hospital staff to recognise the signs of vulnerable and exploited young people when they attend with injuries or trauma relating to serious violence.
This is all in addition to the work of VERU staff, such as its team of youth intervention specialists, which is providing specialist support to more than 60 young people and families affected by criminal exploitation.
Staff at the VERU are also leading efforts across Bedfordshire to coordinate activity between all the different agencies which are active in this field.
Serious youth violence fell by 9 per cent in Bedfordshire in the VERU’s first year, equivalent to around 200 fewer victims of such offences in the county.
Two separate projects to improve the security of two sites in Toddington have also received funded through the PCC’s community safety fund.
“The fact of the matter is that all this investment is producing results which also go hand in hand with the enforcement activities of Bedfordshire Police’s Operation Boson teams which have achieved almost 500 years in prison terms in two years in dealing with the most hardened criminals. The VERU can reach out to young people before they ever reach this stage and this is not only turning long term life chances around but has meant that 200 young people a year on are alive or living without life-changing injuries in Bedfordshire, so we won’t stop here while we have the £880,000 a year funding from the Home Office to continue with this absolutely vital work,” said Commissioner Holloway.
Full list of projects:
Ampthill Town Council
An outreach programme which will engage with young people in the town, replicating a scheme which has run successfully in Flitwick.
Will support the purchase of floodlights for the multi-use games area at the Hart Hill Community Centre.
Active sports equipment purchased for People’s Park in High Town.
Potton Town Council
VERU will help fund a youth club run by Groundworks in the town for one night a week.
Sandy Town Council
The funding will contribute towards the construction of a gym trail across the town, starting in Sunderland Road.
Shefford Town Council
Will improve the security of the council’s youth hub, which was established last year with the help of previous VERU funding.
Staploe Parish Council
Money will pay for utilities connections to two converted shipping containers, allowing them to be brought back into use by local groups.
Toddington Parish Council
Improved security around the cemetery and allotment, as well as sports equipment and a permanent fixed base for a table tennis table.