A specialist police unit is to be set up to tackle gun, gang and knife crime in Bedfordshire, following the award of a £880,000 Home Office grant.
The Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) will be responsible for identifying the drivers of serious violence in the county and developing a coordinated response to tackle them.
Described as a pioneering project, it will bring together police, local government, health, community leaders and other key partners.
Bedfordshire Police’s assistant chief constable, Jackie Sebire, who is also the National Police Chiefs Council’s portfolio lead for serious violence, was instrumental in securing the funding.
She said: “I’m a huge believer in the need for a whole system approach to tackle knife crime and serious youth violence.
“We need to tackle the root causes underpinning violence, which is driven by the drugs market, fear of crime, lack of opportunities and adverse childhood experiences.
“That’s why I am so glad all our partners have come together to back this bid and establish a truly collaborative, multi-agency project.
“With all our collective resources and wills pulling in the same direction, I believe we can have a huge impact on communities across Bedfordshire.”
This is the third major funding award that police have secured from government in recent months.
It follows a special grant of £4.571million to pay for the activity of the specialist gun, gang and knife team Operation Boson, and £1.38million to provide extra patrols, intelligence data-gathering and community projects.
It also comes after the Times & Citizen began campaigning last year for fairer funding for Beds Police, in the context of rising violent crime across the county.
Cllr Colleen Atkins, portfolio holder for community safety at Bedford Borough Council, added: “Across Bedfordshire we’re taking the issue of knife crime and serious violence very seriously.
“This funding will assist us in our partnership work together as we tackle this blight on our communities.
“Alongside work to support the victims and their families affected by these violent and often life changing crimes, we look forward to this initiative having a real impact on reducing violent behaviour in the first place.”
Cllr Ian Dalgarno, Central Bedfordshire Council’s executive member for community services, said: “We work closely with the police and other partners to keep our communities safe and we welcome this additional funding to help tackle the underlying causes of serious violence.
“We hope it will help us to collectively make a real difference to our communities.”
Cllr Hazel Simmons MBE, leader of Luton Council, said: “I am deeply saddened by every incident of knife crime and serious violence that occurs. This epidemic is gripping the whole country and has brought loss and tragedy to the streets of Luton.
“I am concerned and, as Leader of Luton Council, I am determined to understand the factors that are bringing these incidents to our town.
“We are doing what we can to work with the police and other partners and so we welcome the Government funding for a Violence Reduction Unit. This will help us get to the causes of this senseless behaviour which ruins so many lives”.