Here on Teesside the contours of inequality are laid bare by a long-term problem which has afflicted our communities for generations; the many ugly faces of violence.
Using nationally recognised data, Cleveland’s violence rates are the second highest in the country and have been consistently high for generations. This is not a problem that I can fix quickly, and it is not a problem I can fix alone. It is misleading to think that tackling violence is solely a policing problem; it is societal in nature and Cleveland Police have a central role to play with support from partners in education, health and local councils to name but a few.
Others in our area have worked tirelessly for years in tackling violence such as Theresa Cave from Redcar; we owe it to families such as Theresa’s who tragically lost her son, Chris to a knife attack. Theresa set up a foundation in her son’s name The Chris Cave Foundation which has done so much to reduce violence. Having had the privilege to hear so many great speakers in my career, none matched the impact that Theresa had on me when talking about her son. I know that many other families have also worked hard in memory of lost loved ones.
When we talk about violence it’s important to note that it can mean different things to different people. Organised crime groups perpetrating serious violence, domestic abuse, and harassment are just some examples that our communities and staff members face. The societal impact of violence stretches way beyond what the victim may have to endure, and the fear and consequence permeates into our towns and streets.
Violence in our communities was a theme of the discussion when we welcomed back the Rt. Hon. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary to Cleveland Police last week when PCC Steve Turner and I were able to discuss with her a new approach to tackling violence in our communities.
I understand the need to ensure results are visible quickly but short-term response to violence must be balanced with long-term strategy to drive down the number of incidents our communities suffer. We plan to invest heavily in the coming years in ensuring that we make generational change in driving down violence. Not only does this take time, as I referenced earlier – it takes heavy financial investment.
Despite high levels of violence, Cleveland inexplicably missed out on Government funding for a Violence Reduction Unit. Despite this setback, we will work with the PCC to fund our approach along the four ‘P’ system that has worked so well in areas such as counter-terrorism – prevent, protect, pursue and prepare.
To do this properly is to be patient and understand that a societal problem which is multi-generational will not be solved in multi-months. I look forward to engaging with stakeholders over the coming weeks to discuss our future plan to tackle violence. It is my aim that in the years to come, we are recognised nationally in setting the direction of how violence can be reduced. It would be a fitting way to recognise the work of heroes such as Theresa.