Bedfordshire’s PCC, Festus Akinbusoye, together with the Local Authority, hosted three events this week about understanding serious violence in Luton.
Local Communities were invited to the events to discuss serious violence with the Commissioner and Leader for Luton Council, Hazel Simmons. Discussions focused on how work can be done together as a community to prevent violence.
Residents had the opportunity to voice their thoughts and ideas. A theme that came from the events was ensuring people had adequate access to learning the skill sets that can support trauma or how to make decisions when you become angry or frustrated.
PCC, Festus Akinbusoye said “All three events showed us a different area to consider. For me, the young people from At10tive really helped us understand areas we could support. They spoke clearly, calmly and with purpose, they understand their generation and put the ask to us as partners to support them. At the north event community members explained how their experiences had impacted them and at the South event partners connected with residents about the ideas of fear leading to anger which leads to a feeling for young people that they need to protect themselves. This situation often comes from incidents on social media or bullying. From these events I will be putting the following into my Police and Crime Plan:
- A programme focussed on anti-bullying where young people are worked with not preached at about the impact this has.
- I will bring directly into my office a role that will work with current providers to support parents and careers of young people. Improving resilience and supporting healthy choices so they in turn can support the young people experiencing a difficult time.
- In my 22/23 budget I will allocate £150,000 to early intervention programmes that will work with existing programmes and will focus on the type of work that young people tell us they need not just what adults think they need.
This work will be the start not the complete package as this area is key to reducing crime in our area and supporting young people.”
Leader of Luton Council, Hazel Simmons said “I would first of all like to thank every member of the public who attended our meetings, for taking the time to share their thoughts and experiences. It really is crucial to have your support and we value every contribution made.
“One message that came through loud and clear to me was that of communication. We most certainly need to continue to work hard with all our partners to ensure our streets are safe places for all. But we also need to work harder to inform our communities about the work that is already going on to tackle serious violence, and where to go to get help.
“For example, the vast majority of those attending were not aware of that, since March, we have been operating a street and park-based engagement programme called the Tree Project (Tackling, Reducing and Ending Exploitation). This project has created opportunities for specialist community organisations and support services around Luton to be involved in dedicated nights of action, helping young people to receive longer term support to build the resilience needed to resist exploitation and violence.
“Council and police officers are already engaged in projects across the town, from theatre performances in schools highlighting the dangers of knife crime to targeted mentoring and one to one intervention for young people at risk of criminal exploitation.
“We look forward to further chances to work alongside our community to find ways to improve communication both ways, and to tackle the evils of bullying, harassment and criminal exploitation that lead to serious violence.”
These events form part of a wider plan to tackle serious violence across Bedfordshire. The Luton Events covered Luton South, Luton North and a separate event was hosted for young people aged between 14 and 25 years old to enable their voice to be heard. One young contributor said “I’m concerned that a lot of young people don’t have further inspiration to see there is more they can make of their life if they had the right opportunities” another added that “toxic masculinity is a real and everyday problem”. The PCC assured the contributors from At10tive he would come back and work with them to understand how they are working against these issues and putting more support in for their peers.
Many partners in the area commented that violence is not at the levels it was in 2016 and where programmes are working well we need to continue to fund and support them.