Medway Council invited partners to a conference to showcase how early intervention and partnership working can help to continue to keep Medway safe.
More than 190 professionals from the housing, youth, sports, education and social care sectors attended the Gangs, Vulnerability and Interventions Conference at Mid Kent College, Gillingham, on Thursday, 18 July.
The conference highlighted the national issue and showcased intervention tools and projects.
Medway’s Community Safety Partnership (CSP), with Medway Council’s Youth Team were successful in a Home Office funding bid for a number of youth violence and gang initiatives. As part of the bid the CSP worked with a charity called Growing Against Violence (GAV) to pilot gang awareness sessions in a number of secondary schools. The charity delivers programmes in schools to address peer pressure and violence. A number of schools have taken part in the programme which includes sessions on peer pressure, debunking myths around gangs, joint enterprise and the consequences of carrying a knife. The funding was also used for the StepBack project which aimed to raise awareness of knife crime. Young people at Woodlands Youth Centre also created safety cards which have information about what to do in an emergency on them. They have been given to young people across Medway. These have been recognised in other counties such as Bedfordshire Police who requested one of our cards and are now working with their local youths to create something similar.
The professionals also learnt about the multi-agency task force which is in the process of being set up in Medway to tackle crime, violence, disorder, substance abuse and re-offending as part of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s violent crime reduction challenge.
The Medway Task Force focuses on partnership working with agencies supporting each other, and the people of Medway, through education and enforcement.
The team will aim to reduce violent crime, proactively target individuals who may carry weapons and to protect vulnerable residents.
Dr Simon Harding from the University of West London gave a keynote speech about the threat from county lines and the effect it has on communities. Dr Harding is an expert in criminology and recently spoke as part of the Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry into the government’s response to violent crime.
Fantastic partnership working
Cllr Adrian Gulvin, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Resources and Chairman of the Medway Community Safety Partnership, said: “We are committed to continuing to keep Medway safe. The conference highlighted the fantastic partnership working which is already taking place and we are looking forward to working even closer together to ensure that gang culture does not get embedded in Medway. We will continue to work with partners to ensure Medway remains a safe place to live, work, learn and visit.”
Sharing knowledge with partners
Sergeant Sasha Blomfield, from Kent Police, said: “At Kent Police we fully recognise the importance of all agencies involved in protecting the most vulnerable people in our society working with one another.
“On a daily basis I see first-hand the fantastic work that is done as a result of this partnership work – be that safeguarding a child from abuse or educating young people on the dangers of gang activity.
“It is however important that we always seek to improve our service and events like this, which bring all organisations together in one room, allows for knowledge to be shared and new risks to be identified before they become a problem.”
Working together to further reduce crime
Kent’s elected Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott, who opened the event, said: “Cowardly county lines gangs think nothing of exploiting vulnerable young people to do their dirty work peddling drugs. Thanks to extra investment from council tax payers and the Government, Kent Police is tackling the perpetrators of these crimes head-on but these are not issues we can simply arrest our way out of. They need all of us working together. That is where the new Medway Task Force comes in.
“As a result of my Violence Reduction Challenge, I directed Community Safety Partnerships to use the money I gave them this year to support local initiatives which further help to reduce violence; and I’ve put more money into educational workshops and early intervention projects which are diverting vulnerable young people away from gangs and exploitation.”