Tackling serious violence in our communities

Work is taking place by police officers, staff and partner agencies across the Thames Valley to prevent serious violence in our communities.

Serious violence is most prevalent in more populated areas such as Milton Keynes, Slough, Reading and Oxford and as such, the force is concentrating activity in these locations in order to disrupt and prevent these types of crime.

In the vast majority of cases, victims and offenders are known to each other, and do not pose a threat to the wider public.

A number of different enforcement and engagement activities have been taking place in recent months focussing people aged 25 and under, and will continue as part of Thames Valley Police’s commitment to our communities.

These activities include:

  • Intelligence led patrols
  • Increased use of stop and search under Section 60 powers where appropriate
  • Executing warrants
  • Introduction of permanent knife amnesty bins across the Thames Valley
  • Use of knife arches and knife wands by officers
  • Early intervention work including officers visiting schools to talk to students

In particular increased use of stop and search powers has been impactful in further disrupting serious violence and those who look to carry it out. Between April and December last year, the force executed 10,305 stop and searches, an increase of 76.3% from the same period the previous year as well as utilising Section 60 powers when necessary.

There is also a wide range of police activity which will be less visible to the public.

In January 2020, Thames Valley Police along with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley and Reading FC launched the DIVERT programme, the first force outside of London to pilot this approach.

The programme is designed to prevent young people who have been arrested in relation to an offence from re-entering the criminal justice system.

A DIVERT intervention coach has been embedded in the custody suite at Loddon Valley police station to talk to young adults aged 18-25 who have been referred to the programme. The criminal justice process is not disrupted by DIVERT, the young person will still be dealt with appropriately for any offences under investigation, however they have an opportunity to be supported away from crime.

The coach will act as a mentor to the person involved and provide them with proactive support and advice in order to try to steer them from away from committing crime.

The scheme has shown benefits elsewhere and Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner is leading work with Reading Football Club Community Trust in order to provide this mentor and to bring this innovative approach to our area.

This programme is being funded by the Thames Valley Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC).

The Police & Crime Commissioner has established a Violence Reduction Unit to work with the police and other agencies to bring down exploitation and violence in our communities. Thames Valley Police lead officer for serious violence, Superintendent Stan Gilmour said: “We are aware that in recent months there have been a number of very concerning incidents across the Thames Valley involving serious violence, with three people having been killed since New Year’s Eve.

“Tackling this sort of crime has always been a priority for the force and we will continue to build opportunities to do this with and for our communities.

“A number of measures have been put in place to help us do this, and the funding from central government and the OPCC will only assist our work as we move forward together.

“Partnership working is crucial to helping us do this and to keep our communities as safe as possible, and programmes such as Divert will provide an opportunity for us to prevent serious violence at a very early stage.

“We will not tolerate these sort of crimes, which put so many people at risk, and as well as working with our partners for early intervention and prevention we will use powers such as stop and search, as well as implementing Section 60 orders, whenever we need to keep our communities safe.

“I want people to feel reassured that in comparison to the rest of the UK, Thames Valley is a safe to live and work, with much less serious violence than a lot of other police force areas.

“However, we are doing everything in our power to ensure that serious violence in our communities is reduced even further and that the Thames Valley is as safe as it can possibly be.”

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Barber said: “We’re excited to see projects like the Divert scheme come to fruition as part of the work to establish our Violence Reduction Unit.

“A huge part of our work is to help fund programmes which support young people and also tackle issues around violent crime. We have done a lot of educational work as part of our Early Intervention Youth Fund to educate young people and professionals around the Thames Valley on a number of topics which all link in to this wider issue of serious violence. This work continues now with the Violence Reduction Unit which is funding programmes such as Divert, where partnership collaboration is at the heart, to see what further strides can be made towards safer communities.”

Reading FC Community Trust Deputy Manager, Richard Witt said: “We are very proud to be the first club to have Divert in the Thames Valley, this is a program that is needed and one we are very happy to be involved with. Our specially trained custody officer has been working alongside Crystal Palace FC and Millwall FC to get a good understanding of the program and has now started in Loddon Valley police station.

“Bringing Divert to the Thames Valley is giving young people the chance to gain employment and opportunities, our custody officer has already started working and supporting some people.”