'To stop violence from occurring on South Yorkshire streets we need to be informed about the causes of crime'
A South Yorkshire police chief says poverty, poor housing and a lack of education can all lead young people into a life of crime.
The South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit is a new public health approach to tackling crime. It investigates the causes, aims to intervene with youngsters who are at risk and helps those already in the criminal justice system make a clean start.
The county was one of 18 areas identified by the Home Office based on the number of people arriving at A&E with knife injuries and received £1.6m funding.
The unit, which combines police officers with public health experts, ultimately wants to reduce homicides, hospital admissions and violent crime such as robberies.
Supt Lee Berry told a council meeting: “Prevention is better than cure so we need to stop violence from occurring and that’s based on good data to help us be informed about not only where things are happening but why.
“There is intervention to prevent crimes from happening. We are looking at not only where the violence is occurring but what the cause is and taking that back layer by layer and truly understanding what is driving violent crime.
“It’s about reducing inequalities and poverty, we’re looking at poor housing and poor education and particularly with young people, it’s adverse childhood experiences or trauma. We know that’s feeding or leading young people into a path of violence.
“We are also taking people away who are caught up in crime and helping them make positive life choices to break the cycle they’re caught up in.”
The Home Office said at least 20 per cent of the funding must be spent on interventions but South Yorkshire is spending half its budget on 21 schemes.
Supt Berry explained: “We are putting youth workers into communities at key times when we know looked-after children are missing on a regular basis.
“We know they are vulnerable to exploitation and we are working with young people to prevent that from taking place.”
Eight projects have also received funding to support their work in communities.