Tackling violent crime: The link between crime and social issues

Det Supt Una Jennings.
Det Supt Una Jennings.

Crime is interwoven with other social problems and budget cuts make tackling it even harder, says a senior Sheffield detective.

Det Supt Una Jennings joined Sheffield Council chief executive John Mothersole for a presentation at the Town Hall on Operation Fortify, a new multi-agency drive to combat violent crime.

“In common with many large cities, we have a number of current and emerging challenges from increased inequalities to adverse childhood experiences and we need to get ready to meet those,” she told a meeting of the full council.

“The concentration of crime in our city is in areas with high levels of deprivation and high levels of vulnerability. We also know people who have police contact generally have lower levels of mental and physical health. Our focus has to be around early intervention and prevention.

“All this has to be delivered without any growth for all the agencies involved which is challenging at best of times but particularly after the last number of years.”

A new team based at Shepcote Lane police station, including social workers, immigration officers and even members of the fire brigade, will contribute to Operation Fortify.

“What we have tried to do is get the best people we can, people with the right skills and information but most importantly a huge degree of empathy and humanity, to start to develop interventions that will work best for young people.

“The public health approach is really basic, it’s about understanding the problems, understanding the causes, testing and using preventative strategies that work and implementing, sharing and scaling these up as quickly as we can. Our approach is evidence based and best practice nationally.

“We are starting first with organised crime gangs because they are having the most impact in relation to crime in the city and in tandem we are looking at young people at risk of criminal exploitation. By the time I am involved with someone, it means everything else has failed.”

Det Supt Jennings now wants councillors and communities to come on board and support Fortify.

“Our communities are such an important part of this. They are the centre of what we are doing. Before doing a proper consultation with people we had to have the bare bones of what we were doing.

“Now we need encouragement and support from councillors. You can connect with communities in a way I never can. There also needs to be a leap of faith because the pounds we invest now may take 10 or 15 years to realise true potential in terms of the money we might save – but more importantly the lives we are having an impact on.”