An independent review – supported by the Home Office – of how serious and organised crime is identified and tackled by agencies in Northamptonshire has praised the work taking place to intervene early with young people at risk of violence and made a number of recommendations to help agencies develop a consistent and co-ordinated response to the exploitation of vulnerable young people.
Northamptonshire Police Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold supported and part-funded the review to be carried out by the Home Office Violence and Vulnerability Unit, a team of national community safety experts who help local areas to understand the perceptions of crime, identify the issues they need to tackle and make effective plans to deal with them.
Over the course of a month, the review team interviewed more than 50 leaders and practitioners from organisations including Northamptonshire Police, local authorities, the health service, education and voluntary sectors. They wanted to identify the risk to vulnerable young people in Northamptonshire and the work being done to counter criminal exploitation.
The review’s findings were launched at an event hosted by the High Sheriff James Saunders-Watson at Rockingham Castle, which brought together more than 70 senior leaders and academics. The review identified that Northamptonshire is being targeted by groups and gangs dealing drugs and this has led to violence and exploitation across the county – but no more so than anywhere else in the country.
Early intervention programmes such as the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner’s funding for a team to support families in difficulty and the Northamptonshire Police Community Initiative to Reduce Violence were praised, as were a number of other multi-agency initiatives to protect vulnerable people. The review recognised that both programmes provided a platform that would identify and support vulnerable young people and provide a pathway out of gang culture.
The review also identified the need for stronger strategic direction to harness the good work taking place across organisations and develop a clear, collective approach to tackling youth violence and exploitation.
The Northamptonshire Community Safety Board, which was set up at the end of 2018, will now lead in co-ordinating activity to take the review’s 16 recommendations forward.
Northamptonshire Police Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said: “Northamptonshire is not untouched by gang culture and the criminal exploitation of young people and this review has recognised that the issues we face, while not as bad as those in some parts of the country, can only be tackled by working together.
“I’m encouraged that the review identified a high level of commitment from all agencies to create a shared programme so that we all understand each other’s roles. So much good work is going on across all the agencies, including Op Viper and the early intervention team but we need to make sure it is effective and focussed on making young people less vulnerable and keeping the wider community safe.”
Martin Hammond, Executive Director of Kettering Borough Council and Chairman of the Northamptonshire Community Safety Board, said: “Tackling violence is one of the three priorities for the newly formed Board; this review gives us a good platform to make a difference and avoid a spiral into more serious crime that some other county areas have experienced. We are committed to ensuring that all agencies, including schools and the health service, are working closely on the interventions we put in place.”
Chief Superintendent Mick Stamper, Head of Neighbourhood Police for Northamptonshire Police, said: “I was pleased to see partner organisations coming together to discuss the work that we all do to keep Northamptonshire safe. Tackling violence is everyone’s business and I’m confident that this will be the starting off point for some very effective joint work.”