Extra police planned in St Helens town centre at weekends in effort to reduce violence

Additional officers to be deployed in the town centre every Friday and Saturday until March 2020.
Additional officers to be deployed in the town centre every Friday and Saturday until March 2020.

Extra police patrols will be deployed in St Helens town centre in an effort to reduce serious violence in the night-time economy.

Merseyside Police recently secured £4.2 million in surge funding from central government to enable it to deliver short-term action to tackle serious violence, focusing on reducing and reacting to street violence.

In St Helens, knife crime rose by 46 per cent in 2018-19, while violence without injury increased by 45 per cent on the previous year.

Around one third of all crimes carried out in St Helens last year occurred in St Helens town centre.

St Helens Council’s safer communities overview and scrutiny panel were told this week that the surge funding will pay for additional officers to be deployed in the town centre every Friday and Saturday until March 2020.

Superintendent Tami Garvey-Jones, area commander for St Helens, said: “We will be having a night-time economy uplift and operation in place to target all of our night-time economies across Merseyside.

“We also work alongside our special constables who also come in from the force and give an uplift of resources in the night-time economy.

“And only just last weekend we got praised by the door staff, our partners and members of the public who noticed that increase in police visibility in our night-time economy.

“That will now be ongoing from every weekend from now until the end of March next year, while that funding is sustainable.”

On Tuesday, Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy announced the force had secured an additional £3.37 million of government funding to work with partners to tackle violent crime.

The money has been allocated from the Home Secretary’s £100 million Serious Violence Fund, which was announced in the Spring Statement in March.

After securing the funds, Merseyside Police will establish the region’s first Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), strengthening its response to the increase in serious violence, including knife crime.

VRUs are designed to bring a wide range of partners, including the police, local authorities, health and education professionals, community leaders and other key stakeholders together to adopt a public health approach to tackling serious violence.

Merseyside’s VRU will focus on reducing crime by preventing children and young people from entering into criminal activities in the first place.

The funding has been provisionally allocated to 18 PCCs in areas that are worst affected by serious violence, and will be spent in partnership with local authority, health and education partners across England and Wales.

One condition the government has set is that the money must all be spent by April 2020.

Ms Kennedy said: “After lobbying central government for many months about the need for extra funding to tackling serious violence in Merseyside, I am pleased that ministers have listened.

“This award of £3.37 million will enable Merseyside Police to work with our partners to establish a Violence Reduction Unit which will help to bolster the response to serious violence and knife crime.

“The causes of violence are complex and deep-seated. If we are determined to make a lasting change and break the violent hold that some gangs have over some of our neighbourhoods, it is essential that all of those who can help the police embrace this opportunity to do so.

“We need to look beyond the immediate suppression of violence, important though that is, to societal problems including poverty, mental ill-health, education, issues of addiction and lack of opportunity.”

Ms Kennedy said the funding will support the work already underway to explore a public health approach to tackling the underlying causes of serious violence, with the long-term aim of preventing and reducing incidences of violence on Merseyside.

The former MP said the move will also strengthen the police and its partners in their “relentless fight” against crime networks.

She said the VRU will focus on breaking the cycle of offending, tackling the exploitation of young people and dismantling the county lines structures.

“While this investment is very welcome, it does need to be viewed in the wider context,” Ms Kennedy said.

“Merseyside Police has been cut by £110 million since 2010, leading to the loss of more than 1,600 officers and staff.

“This award is a one-off payment for a specific project which must be spent in this financial year.

“So, while it enables Merseyside Police, working with our community safety partners, to reinforce the fight against serious violence in the short term, it does not offer a long-term solution to funding our police service.

“We need a sustainable approach which will ensure we have the funds we need year on year, and I will continue to urge ministers to enable this.”

Deputy Chief Constable Serena Kennedy added: “The unique approach will be put together by representatives from various organisations across Merseyside including local authorities, health trusts, education and other key stakeholders, and they will work together with Merseyside Police to develop a comprehensive approach to tackling serious violent crime, including knife crime.

“The partnership will be focussed on making the streets of Merseyside safer through sharing professional knowledge and developing enhanced and robust strategies to put offenders on the back foot, whilst at the same time providing support for victims and preventing young people from becoming involved in crime.”

The allocation of funding comes just a month after Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner announced her intention to establish a multi-agency partnership, the Violence Reduction Partnership.

The aim of the partnership is to prevent and reduce the incidences of violence, as well as to identify the underlying reasons for the recent increase in serious crime on Merseyside.