Elections 2018: Hackney Lib Dems would plough £1.5m a year into ‘innovative’ unit to combat the roots of violent crime

Pauline Pearce (centre) with council candidates for De Beauvoir ward Darren Martin (left) and Becket

Pauline Pearce (centre) with council candidates for De Beauvoir ward Darren Martin (left) and Becket Mcgrath - Credit: liberal democrats

Lib Dems in Hackney have come up with a strategy to tackle violent crime at its roots, by ploughing £1.5million a year into an innovative unit to treat the causes of the current deadly epidemic.

While Hackney Council currently funds its integrated gangs unit (IGU) with £621,000 annually plus a share of the youth offending team’s budget, the Hackney violence reduction unit (HVRU) would see £713,000 to fund an extra 10 police officers each year, as well as £752,000 to employ more youth workers.

De Beauvoir ward candidate Darren Martin came up with the idea when a similar project that slashed crime levels in Glasgow caught his eye. While Scotland was considered the most violent country in the developed world in 2005 before its VRU was implemented, murder rates have fallen by 47pc in the past decade.

No one was killed with a knife in Scotland in 2017 – compared with the 39 fatal stabbings in London since the New Year.

Darren told the Gazette: “The mayor Philip Glanville said at a hustings that the council already has the same kind of thing, but the IGU doesn’t take in the wider remit to look into why we are living in such a violent society.

“If you look at Hackney in particular we have the acid attacks, and schools have a much higher rate for exclusion for violence towards members of staff and children – it’s painting a picture of a violent society.

“This is about changing attitudes towards violence in general, and it’s not just looking at the gang aspect, which is the tragic thing that happens and makes the headlines, but it starts at an early age and is about things like people being exposed to domestic violence.

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“That starts to build up an attitude that violence is OK and an acceptable reaction to deal with a situation, which we know it isn’t.”

Darren has been talking with bosses at the VRU, and thinks £1.5m would be plenty to make a difference here. In comparison, £1m was invested in the VRU for the whole of Scotland in 2017.

“We wanted to make sure with the budget it was based on numbers that would make a difference. We can focus our efforts on trying to arrest our way out of the problem, or focus on forming a long-term way to change attitudes.”

The party also plans to build more council homes in Hackney and protect renters from being priced out of the borough, as well as helping homeless people.

The council’s crime chief Caroline Selman said the Lib Dems’ aren’t proposing “anything that the council isn’t already doing” however.

“The IGU was the first in the country to bring together all partners in one place to tackle gang violence while we have fought to maintain the second highest spending in London on universal youth provision,” she said.

“By working together over the past ten years, we have made significant progress in tackling gangs and violent crime - but as the tragic deaths in Hackney and across London have shown there is still more to do.”