Leeds Council's deputy leader calls for long-term funding to help communities in the fight against knife crime

Long-term funding is needed to help Leeds communities tackle knife crime and serious violence, Leeds City Council's deputy leader has said.

Saturday, 24th April 2021, 6:00 am

As figures reveal the council wards which are hotspots for knife crime, Councillor Debra Coupar praised the community initiatives working together to reach young people at pivotal moments in their lives.

The Yorkshire Evening Post's Saving Lives After Lockdown campaign is looking at preventing an upsurge in knife crime post-lockdown.

Since restrictions were eased on April 12, the city has been rocked by a machete attack in Swarcliffe which left an 18-year-old's hand severed and a stabbing in Harehills Park which left a 16-year-old boy seriously injured.

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Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council's deputy leader and executive member for communities

The council's strategy for tackling knife crime focuses on early intervention and prevention, Coun Coupar said, working with West Yorkshire Police, the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) and community organisations to reach at-risk young people.

Much of this work is carried out under the Safer Leeds partnership, which brings together public bodies in the city to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour,

Coun Coupar, who is the council's executive member for communities, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "As communities, we really need to come together to address serious violence - it's not something that can be ignored.

"We can't just expect the police to deal with it and arrest their way out of it. What's needed is a whole community effort to tackle this issue, from the ground-up.

The Yorkshire Evening Post's Saving Lives After Lockdown campaign is looking at ways to prevent an upsurge in knife crime post-lockdown

"That includes early prevention and intervention work, or having a community discussion within local neighbourhoods to identify their concerns, where the causes may be, or areas that may need investment."

Leeds saw a 15 per cent drop in knife crime in 2020, with a 20 per cent reduction in young people being admitted to hospital with injuries sustained by violence in the last year.

Coun Coupar said this shows the city-wide approach is having a positive impact.

But lockdowns have thrown challenges at the vital work going on in the city and Coun Coupar said a lack of long-term funding makes it difficult to plan ahead.

She added: "We only get 12 months funding at a time, which doesn't make for sustainable projects.

"Coming out of lockdown, as the community recovers from a terribly challenging year, we're really looking with interest to see new legislation coming from the Government where needed.

"We've started to look strategically on how we deal with serious violence crime, we've started a new board under Safer Leeds that will look purely on serious violent crime in the city, looking at how we can work together to address the issue.

"And if we're looking at creating a sustainable, long-term programme - we need the long-term funding."

Coun Coupar praised the community projects providing a package of support for young people across the city.

She highlighted the work of CATCH in Harehills, which is building the next generation of community leaders, the outreach work of the Youth Association, Getaway Girls which helps young women build confidence and Chapeltown Youth Development Centre, which supports 900 young people every week.

Coun Coupar added: "East Leeds has quite a bulk of the preventative work, due to the incidents that have taken place.

"But that work is taking place in other areas of the city. Projects have really had to adapt and do things differently this year."

Council-backed schemes have reached 1,300 new young people in the last year, Coun Coupar said, and funding has been used to employ a dedicated Youth Engagement Leader - working with individuals at risk of violence on a one-to-one basis.

"Hopefully that will pay dividends going forward," Coun Coupar added.

"We're trying to get further upstream so we can deal with it at an early stage, so the police aren't having to enforce their way out of the problem."

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