The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will establish a new Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) after studying the success of the Scottish VRU in Glasgow at tackling violent crime. City Hall said: “Set up with an initial £500,000, the Violence Reduction Unit will look to build on Glasgow’s success, scaling up to a capital with nearly 9 million.”
The SVRU opened its doors in 2005; in the same year, the World Health Organisation branded Glasgow the “murder capital” of Europe. Since then, the SVRU have helped to bring murder and violent crime rates across Scotland to a 40-year low by adopting an approach informed by public health practices, rather than traditional criminal justice methods. This includes presenting gang members with an alternative to their violent lives, identifying signs of domestic abuse, and tackling problem drinking.
Khan’s announcement marks a change from previous policy, which involved increasing police patrols and the use of controversial stop-and-search measures in the worst-affected areas. His approach received criticism from many across the political spectrum, including former mayor Boris Johnson, for failing to address root issues or make a significant impact on crime rates.
The VRU will work alongside existing organisations, such as the Met’s recently bolstered Violent Crime Force. Khan has stressed that the VRU will take a while to have a visible impact, stating: “The Violence Reduction Unit will not deliver results overnight; the causes of violent crime are many years in the making and the solutions will take time.”
Many have lauded Khan’s adoption of Scotland’s model, with Niven Rennie, Director of the SVRU, stating: “Scotland has shown that change is possible and we believe London can do the same. We have been happy to support London in the development of a Violence Reduction Unit and will continue to offer our help and support whenever it is requested. Start with the belief that violence is preventable and anything is possible.”