Bedfordshire Police bosses admit to crisis in serious violence crime
The police and government were unanimous in their verdict: Bedfordshire has reached crisis point with violent crime.
At a special event organised by the Home Office on Thursday, there was no dissent.
Police and crime commissioner Kathryn Holloway said: “Our children are dying”.
Chief Constable Jon Boutcher described a situation that was worse than anything he had experienced in more than 30 years of policing, including time fighting international crime networks on the regional and national crime squad.
And Nick Hurd, government minister for policing, told an audience of community leaders that the problem would take a decade to solve.
>Chief Constable Boutcher, who has led the force for more than three years, described one day earlier this year.
In the space of 24 hours of September 16, a knife fight in Luton between three gangs saw seven young men held in hospital overnight.
One of them, aged 15, had been expected to die from his injuries, although he did survive.
That same day a 16-year-old boy was stabbed to death in Bedford.
And a young man had been dropped off at the Luton & Dunstable Hospital suffering from gunshot wounds.
Also that day there were four reports of rape, and five prison officers were assaulted in Bedford Prison.
“So many young lives are ruined,” he added.
Chief Constable Boutcher said there were multiple and complex reasons behind these crimes.
And he wanted to stress that the majority of young people were not involved in these crimes.
>Assistant Chief Constable Dr Jacqueline Sebire painted a bleak picture of the decisions that the force have to make every day because of a lack of funding.
“We have to make really difficult decisions,” she said.
“Yes, more money is needed. But we have to make decisions now.
“Sometimes you have to decide ‘Will I investigate this stabbing or this burglary?’
“That’s the reality of policing now.”
She also told the audience that reported knife crime in Bedfordshire had increased by almost half – 49.4 per cent – from 2016 to 2018.
And, it had increased every single year since 2012.
Of 40 police forces only five saw more firearms offences committed per person last year. And only four saw more knife crime person.
Assistant Chief Constable Sebire said: “We’ve always had violence. We’ve always had knife crime. But this is something different.”
>Commissioner Kathryn Holloway said it was a stark issue, and that basic economics was a key factor.
She cited statistics which show that it only costs a drugs gang a quarter of the expense to have a child run drugs in Bedford than in London.
Meanwhile the area’s ready public transport links to the capital make that an attractive option for gangs.
She added: “Our children are dying and being seriously injured.
“Social media is meaning that rival groups are coming together just because they are from rival postcodes.”
>MP Nick Hurd gave a positive verdict on whether the problem could be fixed – but stressed that it would take up to 10 years, would require work from the entire community, and could not simply be solved with money or making more arrests.
He said: “This is long-term work. This is ten years – but we can do it.
“We’ve been here before, in places like London and Glasgow. We’ve been here before and we can do it.
“The research is already written.
“We know what to do, but it’s hard and it’s long-term work.”
Mr Hurd said there were three main strands to the work that needed to be done.
The first was the “importance of citizenship” and “local leadership”. Then there was multi-agency work, as this was a “community challenge”.
Finally Mr Hurd talked about finding the balance btween “robust law enforcement” and “investing in support and early intervention”.
However, when he was asked about funding, Mr Hurd talked about a £200million endowment fund and building a “knowledge base”; there was no mention of increasing the overall funding of Bedfordshire Police to pay for extra police officers or to re-open closed police stations.