“The Mayor of London says that it will take a decade or even a generation before London can turn round the rise in violent crime. This is a counsel of despair. It is not how we see things in South Yorkshire.
“I accept that we need to learn from experiences elsewhere. Glasgow is often cited, and similar methods were tried in Cincinnati, with some success.
“This is the ‘public health’ approach which says that people are drawn into gangs and violence because they have no alternative life chances that seem achievable. Their education is poor. There is no youth service. Job prospects are few. They receive no help with drug or alcohol addiction or mental health issues. Tackle these and those vulnerable young people most at risk will be turned away from crime.
“This is about getting upstream from crime and preventing people getting into trouble in the first place. But it’s not the whole story, not even in Glasgow.
“What is often overlooked is that at the same time as the various agencies coming together to do the preventive work, the police also continued with enforcement activity, including stop and search.
“In fact, in Glasgow, when stop and search was cut back more recently, figures for knife crime began to rise again. So we mustn’t misunderstand what Glasgow or Cincinnati are telling us.
“If we look again at Cincinnati, their success has been more spectacular than Glasgow and over a much shorter timescale. As well as the ‘public health’ approach, they also refocussed policing, targeting those individuals causing most harm.
“Officers concentrated on the neighbourhoods where the gangs operated and figured out why they were comfortable there. Then they disrupted their activities.
“This place-based approach saw violent crime fall by 46% last year.
“Another way of describing this approach is not new and it’s very British. We must be ‘tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime’. In this respect, Tony Blair was absolutely right.
“But if it is to work, it needs the co-operation of communities. The police need the intelligence that the community holds. They need the community to be supportive of stop and search – as long as it is proportionate and fair.
“This is what the renewed focus on neighbourhood policing is giving us and this is why I think we won’t need a decade let alone a generation to make a difference.”