Mayor launches new public health approach to tackling serious violence

19 September 2018

The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has today announced plans to establish a new Violence Reduction Unit of specialists in health, police and local government to lead and deliver a long-term public health approach to tackling the causes of violent crime. 


Sadiq will enhance and build on the public health approach already underway at City Hall with a new unit that has greater capacity to deliver early interventions to help prevent the spread of violence. The new unit will improve co-ordination between the Metropolitan Police, local authorities, youth services, health services, criminal justice agencies and City Hall as part of the new enhanced partnership, backed up by the unit. It will also build on what works and share best practice.


The Mayor has directed an initial £500,000 towards establishing the Violence Reduction Unit. The Mayor and his team have over the last few months been carrying out extensive research to understand the approaches taken in Glasgow, where a long-term public health approach to tackling serious violence was adopted. In Glasgow the approach has been in place for more than a decade and has delivered large reductions in violence. 


By researching and investigating how a similar approach could be scaled up from Glasgow (with a population of just over 600,000) to work in the capital (with a population that is nearly nine million), the Mayor is seeking to build on and learn from Glasgow’s successes. Sadiq is clear that a public health approach dealing with long terms causes of violent crime is designed to function alongside enforcement. The Metropolitan Police and its City Hall-funded Violent Crime Taskforce have been working hard, since first being set up in April, to drive down violence by making arrests and taking knives and weapons off the streets. But there is agreement from all agencies, that enforcement alone cannot solve this problem. A variety of services, and whole communities must be part of designing and working towards the solutions. The ultimate aim is to divert young people away from criminal activity, by supporting the vulnerable at an early stage and giving young Londoners better life opportunities.


The new unit will be a multi-disciplinary team, and will work across the city, expanding the work of the Mayor’s Knife Crime Strategy to include wider types of violence and look to address the links between violence in the home and on the street. At its heart is the aim of better understanding the risk factors in a person’s early life that can lead to serious violence by using data from health, criminal justice and other public services. It will also focus on improved and speeded up interventions at a local level, with the aim of reducing violence and protecting those vulnerable to exploitation. This work will happen at all levels in the city by working with boroughs, local police Basic Command Units, the local community, families, the health service and criminal justice agencies. 


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The causes of violent crime are extremely complex, involving deep-seated societal problems like poverty, social alienation, mental ill-health and a lack of opportunity. Since I became Mayor, I’ve been working tirelessly with local councils, charities and community groups on a public health approach to tackling serious violence, but it’s clear we need to do more to support them in driving down not just knife crime, but all forms of violent crime.


“I’m leading from the front in London and using my convening powers to bring together specialists in health and criminal justice to co-ordinate a new Violence Reduction Unit. This will build on the public health approach we have already been working on at City Hall and will expand the work of the Knife Crime Strategy as part of a long-term approach to tackling violent crime.


“We have listened and researched the public health approaches in cities like Glasgow, where their own long-term approach over more than a decade has delivered large reductions in violence. City Hall have spent time properly learning the lessons from Glasgow and developing plans to scale their approach up to meet the different needs and challenges we face in London.


“This new approach will work alongside the increased enforcement work being carried out by the Metropolitan Police. The Met Commissioner and I have recently bolstered the Violent Crime Taskforce so it now has 272 officers focused solely on tackling violence in the worst affected areas. It will also complement my new £45 million Young Londoners Fund, which is providing young people with positive alternatives to crime and to help those caught up in gangs to get into employment and training.


“But I want to be honest with Londoners that the work of the Violence Reduction Unit will not deliver results overnight. The causes of violent crime are many years in the making and the solutions will take time. That’s why our new approach is focusing over the long-term. This unit is not a substitute for the investment our public services need if London is to significantly cut levels of violent crime.”


Vicky Foxcroft MP, chair of the Youth Violence Commission, said: “I am delighted that the Mayor is announcing the new Violence Reduction Unit, building on the public health approach and driving forward a long-term strategic approach to tackling violence, which I have advocated in my role as Chair of the Youth Violence Commission.


“This approach has achieved hugely positive impacts in Glasgow, so I am glad that it will form a key part of Sadiq’s plans as he builds on the hard work already being done to tackle violence in London.”


Niven Rennie, director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, said: “The Scottish Violence Reduction Unit was set-up in 2005 with the instruction to try something different. The SVRU started by treating violence as a disease which was infecting our communities. From teachers and social workers, to doctors and dentists, police and government we have all worked together to make Scotland safer. The job isn't done and every single life lost is a tragedy, but we have come a long way from the days when the World Health Organisation branded Scotland the most violent country in the developed world. Scotland has shown that change is possible and we believe London can do the same. We have been happy to support London in the development of a Violence Reduction Unit and will continue to offer our help and support whenever it is requested. Start with the belief that violence is preventable and anything is possible."


Statutory Health Advisor to the Mayor and Regional Director for Public Health England, Dr Yvonne Doyle, said: “The new Violence Reduction Unit is a positive step to tackle the current scourge of violent crime in London. We need to provide a safer future for our city’s young people where reducing violence offers them better life opportunities, good health and the chance to live. We need to think differently about how violence takes root and adopting a public health approach where we listen to communities, use the best available evidence and try new ideas, could provide real solutions to the causes and triggers of violence.”


Cllr Lib Peck, Deputy Chair of London Councils and Executive Member for Crime and Public Protection, said: “Serious youth violence is a hugely significant issue for London and the onus is on all of us to show leadership in tackling it.


“London boroughs are already working hard to understand and address the causes of serious youth violence and further pan-London support is very welcome.


“We look forward to working even more closely with the Mayor, the police and local communities to deliver a meaningful long-term response.”


Dr Vin Diwakar, Regional Medical Director for NHS England in London, said: "We welcome this initiative which is based on international best practice. London’s major trauma hospitals are among the best in the world and are often at the receiving end of violent crime in the capital.


“It is vital that we take a joined-up approach to tackling this issue and understand that no single organisation can deal with it in isolation. That is why NHS England strongly supports the coordinated approach led by the Mayor to deal with the impact of serious violence in London.”


Ben Lindsay, CEO of Power the Fight charity and Pastor of Emmanuel Church London, said: “The new London partnership is an excellent initiative. Only a holistic, multi-disciplinary, joined up approach can begin to dismantle and address the structures that lead to youth violence. The Mayor’s long-term commitment to ending youth violence is welcome and necessary.”


Patrick Green, CEO of the Ben Kinsella Trust, said: “The Violence Reduction Unit is a significant move forward in approaching knife crime as a public health issue.  The root causes of knife crime are complex and need solutions that extent beyond enforcement.  We have seen how similar programmes have worked to great effect in Scotland.  Bringing together experts from a range of disciplines, sharing information which helps to disrupt criminal activity and intervene earlier to reduce the likelihood of violence is an important step forward in the fight to end knife crime.”


Mary Mason, CEO of Solace Women’s Aid, said: “We very much welcome a strong public health approach to tackling domestic abuse and the impact it has on children affected by it. Children of any age can develop symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. For children it has negative implications as they get older and can lead to becoming perpetrators of abuse themselves. Domestic abuse is an important public health issue and we support the Mayor in leading a partnership approach to supporting victims to improve their long-term well-being.”


Notes to editors


  • City Hall will be working with partners over the course of the coming months to design how the unit will operate and where best additional capacity should be directed for early interventions.
  • Glasgow has a population of just over 600,000 compared to a population of almost nine million in London. The Glasgow public health approach, started in 2004 involved white Scottish males aged 14 to 18 with alcohol being a contributory factor in half of all murders. It was also one part of East Glasgow, while violence is concentrated in a much wider number of areas in London. In 2004/05 there were 40 murders in Glasgow and 4,701 incidents of violent crime. This compares to 159 homicides in London in 2017/18 and 159,982 recorded incidents of violence in the capital.
  • The Mayor has made tackling knife and violent crime a key priority. He has invested an additional £140 million in the Met over the last two years, which includes £15m on the Violent Crime Taskforce, specifically to help tackle knife crime. The Mayor and the Commissioner recently took the difficult decision to move 122 officers from the Met’s Roads and Transport Policing Command to boost the taskforce, which is helping to keep dangerous criminals, weapons and drugs off London's streets.
  • Every single London borough now has a bespoke Knife Crime Action Plan created in partnership with the Met police and every school and college can now receive a knife wand, to help keep young people safe and prevent knife crime at school. 200 schools in London have taken up the Mayor's offer of a knife wand.
  • Sadiq has also invested £45 million in the Young Londoners Fund - a brand-new fund for local communities and charities to help young people fulfil their potential particularly those who are at risk of getting caught up in crime.
  • As part of the Mayor’s Public Health approach, he has confirmed he is investing £1.4 million to continue to provide youth workers in Major Trauma Centres, and place more youth workers in hospital A&E departments to help steer young Londoners who have been involved in knife crime away from violence in the future. Combined with the Mayor’s Young Londoner’s funding this brings total investment in specialist youth support in hospitals to £2.7 million between 2018-2020. This will continue alongside the work of the Violence Reduction Unit.
  • The Mayor’s first anti-knife crime media campaign, ‘London Needs You Alive’, launched in November. The campaign brings together role models and social media youth ‘influencers’ to encourage young people away from carrying a knife, focusing on their talent and worth to the capital. With hundreds of thousands of social media followers between them, leading grime artist Yungen, MC Bossman Birdie, photographer Tom Sloan and urban poet Hussain Manawer are among those supporting it. To date this campaign has been viewed 4,043,390 times by Londoners.



Violence showing signs of stabilising


Between 1/1/18 to 12/9/18 there have been                    100 murders. (SD rate 85%)*

Between 1/1/17 to 12/9/17 there were                             99 murders. (SD rate 62.8%)

 Between 1/4/18 to 12/9/18 there have been                    55 murders (SD rate 97.5%)

Between 1/4/17 to 12/9/17 there were                             75 murders (SD rate 62.5%)

 *includes 15 cases from 2017, 3 from 2016, 1 from 2011 & 2 from 2007.

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