An innovative project that sees “violence interrupters” deployed in key meeting places for young people to de-escalate conflict has received a special visit from Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping.
The PCC visited volunteers behind Nottingham Forest Community Trust’s new Violence Interrupter Programme to find out more about the progress being made to keep Nottingham violence-free as part of his long-term strategy to tackle knife crime.
The scheme has received £30,000 from the Home Office which has been put towards the recruitment of “violence interrupters” who will gather at fast food restaurants, trainer outlets and high-end fashion shops in the city frequented by young people returning from school.
Such establishments create a trigger point where rival groups of people arrive at the same time and it is hoped the new recruits will be able to positively engage with those most at risk of engaging in violence, and prevent conflict before it arises.
In the first week of going live, the city team has interacted with between 80 and 100 young people aged between 14 and 19. On three occasions they have stepped in to stop episodes escalating into violence and around 15 of those they have interacted with are known within community circles to be knife carriers. Meanwhile, in Gedling, the team has interacted with a group of 10 young people who are frequenting Asda in Front Street.
The model is based on the successful experience of Chicago’s CeaseFire programme which employed volunteers with credibility in groups of at-risk individuals who were able to deescalate conflicts and provide non-violent alternatives to dealing with confrontation.
Mr Tipping’s visit on Tuesday night comes as Nottinghamshire Police and partners hold a knife amnesty which runs until Sunday 17 March, as part of the national Operation Sceptre campaign to highlight ongoing work to tackle knife crime.
Mr Tipping said: “This is a hugely innovative project and I’m very proud to support it in Nottingham City Centre. Focusing on high-risk locations for violence and providing practical intervention will increase the safety of everyone in our city, including young people deemed at risk of becoming either victims or perpetrators of violence.
“Knife crime and street violence is never too far away from the headlines. Any project which engages young people on their territory, in the places where conflict is most likely to arise, will have a powerful impact on their decision-making and help us to make our public spaces more resilience to threat. I am very excited about the potential for this work and will follow the progress intently.”
Nottingham Forest Community Trust has a proven track record of successful youth engagement, helping to turn vulnerable people away from crime and antisocial behaviour.
In addition to funding for its Violence Interrupter Programme, the PCC has provided £30,000 for its educational plays “Double Edge” and “When I was 14” performed by young people which dramatically portray the consequences of involvement in violence with the focus on knife crime.
The performances, which are suitable for young people aged 13-18, will be supported by a series of workshops that will generate discussion and offer solutions to the causes of youth violence and involvement in negative behaviour.
Nottingham Forest Community Trust’s long-standing Kicks diversionary scheme, which motivates boys and girls aged eight to 18 through football tuition, has been in operation since 2008 and is in operation at 10 locations across the city and county. There are now more than 1,400 young people registered with the scheme while 54 young people have been supported into further and higher education.