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How UK cities differ in their approach to tackling crime rates

In the UK, violent incidents, knife crimes and firearm use have risen, seeing crime rates in some cities more significant than others.

As reported by the ONS, the overall crime rate in the country is 75.88 per 1,000 residents, which is an 8% increase compared with 2021. Across all the UK territories, England saw the highest crime rate at 83.77 per 1,000 people in 2022, making it the most dangerous country.

On the other hand, Scotland’s crime rate in 2022 was 5% lower compared with 2021, since it recorded only 528 crimes per 10,000 people. Northern Ireland saw an even lower rate, with 49 crimes per 1,000 people.

When it comes to cities, however, which have higher percentages of criminal activities when looking at the number of certain crimes for every 1,000 people? And what are these cities doing to tackle the issue?

In order to better the situation in the UK’s second city, Manchester’s authorities have devised a Serious Violence Action Plan. Knife crime, in particular, is a severe issue in the city and the surrounding areas, since it almost doubled from 2013 to 2018, going from around 3,100 yearly offences to almost 6,200. There are various components to this project, and some initiatives include:

  • having more officers patrol the streets
  • offering more funding to Youth Justice Services for violent resistance and prevention programmes
  • involving all communities in plans for problem-solving recurring violent issues

In addition, the Mancunian police put together a new task force to help tackle serious and violent crime, called Operation Venture. In December 2022, it started its patrol operations around the city, by adopting extra security measures like weapon sweeps, stop and search and promoting more community engagement.

“The launch of Operation Venture demonstrates Greater Manchester’s determination to rid our streets of weapons and keep our communities, particularly our young people, safe from violent crime,” Bev Hughes, deputy mayor for policing crime, criminal justice and fire, said.

In April 2023, Operation Venture’s efforts were rewarded with an arrest in Radcliffe, a town near Manchester, of an individual carrying a knife and over £1,000 worth of drugs.

“Every arrest made and a knife seized is a fantastic result for the team as it means one more weapon taken off the streets of Greater Manchester,” Sergeant Paul Heep told Bury Times, “Operation Venture is working hard to reduce violent crime and whilst the team are seeing great results, we also rely on intelligence provided to us by members of the public.”

As 2022 marked the peak of the number of criminal acts in Hull, its Council opened a £250,000 Crime Prevention Fund to better support community-based safety solutions. For example, new security lighting was installed and there are projects to improve local facilities in the near future.

As Councillor Rob Pritchard explained: “We know residents want to see persistent crime and antisocial behaviour problems tackled, including drug use and dealing, burglary, fly-tipping, speeding, the misuse of motorbikes and damage and graffiti.

“The aim of the Crime Prevention Fund is to help people tackle these problems and make communities safer places for everyone. All work will support the key aims of Hull’s Police and Crime Plan, which are to have engaged, resilient and inclusive communities; safer communities and effective organisations.”

The Police and Crime Plan was forged by police and crime commissioner Jonathan Evison in 2021, and it outlines a step-by-step project lasting until 2025, for the duration of his term of office. In collaboration with the police force, there are three main aims:

  • Support an engaged, resilient and inclusive community.
  • Make communities safer via interventions and activities focused on local crime levels.
  • Evolve the already-existing organisations to make them more effective.

The plan has a set specific roadmap, which sees the introduction of a new model of victim support and the opening of a new police station in South Bank between 2023 and 2024.

In February 2023, Evison said: “The number of police officers has risen to around 600 more than the low point in 2016 and there are now 2,200 officers in the force […] Of course, things are never perfect and there is a strong desire to improve the service even further for the public we serve.”

Birmingham is considered the most dangerous city in the West Midlands. This is why the city adopted various initiatives to tackle the issue of criminality. In particular, in January 2022, Birmingham’s Council declared three main steps for the fight against the issues of knife crime and fly-tipping:

  • Invest an extra £1.4m in clearing Birmingham’s streets.
  • Invest £1m in a collaboration with West Midlands Police to help tackle knife crime.
  • Provide £590,000 to find and deal with rogue landlords in the Homes of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) and Supported Exempt Accommodation sectors.

“These measures will make a huge difference to many people in neighbourhoods and communities right across the city and we’re delighted to be working with partners to tackle the issues that matter to the people of Birmingham,” Ian Ward, Birmingham City Council leader, said.

Apart from the Council itself, other organisations are contributing to the cause in Birmingham. Namely, City Safe and Crimestoppers. City Safe focuses mostly on Birmingham’s city centre by providing better equipment for local businesses such as digital radios and a new text messaging system. The initiative is led by Retail BID Birmingham in collaboration with West Midlands Police and British Transport Police.

Jonathan Cheetham, previous Chair of Retail BID Birmingham, explained: “City Safe was created to deliver a solution, recognise and take ownership of issues, with its sole purpose being to support, assist and strengthen the effectiveness of our members in resisting the burdens of well-being, safety and profitability, which business crime imposes on them.”

On the other hand, Crimestoppers is a non-profit organisation in Birmingham that launched a new project campaign in 2023 towards violence reduction sponsored by Birmingham Violence Reduction Partnership and West Midlands Police. Put simply, it is a tip line about organised crime and drug issues, which works completely anonymously. Fearless, the youth service of Crimestoppers, also came into play by offering younger people advice and help when needed.

“We know that many lives are lost and families are left devastated because of the violence associated with drug crime. It’s only by individuals taking the brave step of reporting what they know that we can see a reduction in the pain caused. This can be done 100% anonymously via Crimestoppers or our Fearless service for young people. Our charity exists for people who do not wish to speak to the police,” Crimestoppers regional manager Alan Edwards said.

There are various reasons why Southampton‘s safety has been compromised in recent years, as outlined by Planet Radio. For instance, population change might be one of the factors. In addition, poverty and inequality also play a part, since children who live in disadvantaged conditions are more likely to become involved in crime. When it comes to population, its rise also contributes to the percentage of criminal acts.

The police force outlined five main threats to the city of Southampton:

  • knife crime
  • Violence against women and girls.
  • Antisocial motorbike use and theft.
  • Burglaries.
  • Cannabis factories.

The newest chief inspector is Marcus Kennedy, who moved from Portsmouth to Southampton in September 2022, and explained: “For me, prevention is so important, it is a huge part of what we do in policing. I’m a huge advocate of prevention.”

With objectives that intertwine with the police’s aims, the Southampton Safe City Strategy is the main body of action in crime prevention in the city. The plan, active since 2022 and until 2027, has three main areas of interest. The first is to keep people safe from harm, the second is to both prevent and reduce violent crimes and the third is to create more resilient and safer communities.

The Southampton Safe City Strategy derives from the Safe City Partnership, which is a conglomerate of organisations and commissioners who are responsible for the decisions regarding the security and safety of the area. For instance, the Hampshire Fire and Rescue body, the National Probation Service and the Southampton City Council are all members of this initiative. Coming together and acting upon all these different elements that contribute to crime is a long process but this five-year plan is a step forward in the right direction.

There are two main plans that are active in Leicester to tackle criminal acts: the Police and Crime Plan and the Leicester Knife Crime and Serious Violence Strategy. In addition, the police force has been more active in hot-spot areas since 2021 and, one year after, figures showed that there were 47.5% fewer robberies in the city centre and 39% overall across the entire city area.

The Police and Crime Plan has been running since 2021 and will be active until 2024, and it is under the responsibility of Rupert Matthews, the police and crime commissioner in Leicester. The plan includes short, medium and long-term objectives, such as bettering the rural crime teams outside of the city borders, tackling domestic abuse responsiveness, developing Safer Communities Strategies in public spaces, and investing in the local Violence Reduction Network to strengthen preventative strategies.

Running out in 2023, the Leicester Knife Crime and Serious Violence Strategy was commissioned by the City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby in 2021. As the name suggests, this particular plan aims to tackle knife crime and violent acts specifically, and it does so by involving the community. The strategy includes sessions and conferences to not only educate the public on the matter but to come up with strategic ideas on how to deal with the issue. Rather than a purely practical approach, Leicester decided to promote the understanding of the problem first with community engagements.

(Source: City Monitor)


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