This week serious stuff but first… Last week I did the Chester Step test. It was a relief to pass given the force stats the week before showing no one had failed yet! I recognise some of you are also worried about the test. Our approach to offer a health MOT and this test is different than other forces who are doing a shuttle run alone. We took this approach because of the logistical and cost problems with the shuttle run and the fact this is a better approach to employee well-being. I enjoyed the check and would say now the test is a bit harder than I thought it would be, (it involves stepping on and off an exercise step to an increasing rhythm as your heart is monitored. You canâ€™t hide your heart rate!). If you are going to do the test I suspect some training (and in my case natural rhythm) would help. I am walking the stairs at Lloyd House a bit more and the test is achievable for all.
Over the last few months Inspector Dave Twyford and Helen Hodges from FCID have been working on secondment at West Midlands Public Health (PH) to help produce a joint assessment of violence, drawing on police and public health data. In the next few weeks we are working with PH West Midlands and local public health directors to decide how we deal with this. One of the biggest changes we have seen over the last few years has been the acceptance of violence as a health issue. The World Health Organisation has violence reduction strategies. The Violence Reduction Unit in Scotland has pioneered this work in the UK and the new Health Outcomes framework for the NHS places violence as one of a number of crime-related areas health should address.
It is simple to see why it is about health. Violence generates injuries and deaths. People who live in violent environments have very high levels of stress and other health issues. Poor lifestyle choices like drugs and alcohol have a strong association with violence. Violent people pass on their violence in many cases to their siblings and children, just like an infection. Violence in the West Midlands is falling but the rate of violence per 1000 here in our region is high compared to most other cities. Of most concern is violence in the 10-24 group, which shows quite high rates of serious injury; this is not acceptable. Recent research we did on gangs in WMP showed strict gang groupings are falling away but too many young people lead violent street-based lives. It can and must be stopped. Despite our very proud record on cutting crime this needs a different approach with health at its heart, a revolution alongside shifts we have made in areas like offender management.
Working at this problem as a health issue can, we believe, make a difference. If we really understand crime and hospital trends through effective injury monitoring we know the full picture about what is happening and where. We have to recognise young people as a key group and make a real attempt to intervene at those at risk of violence by effective referral processes. We have to engage clinical staff in working with us to prevent and not just treat violence, and we can have many allies who see the effects of violence every day. Scotland actively engages dentists in domestic abuse referral as they are a â€œmust goâ€ service if someone breaks your teeth. They also work with vets as so many animals are ill-treated in violent households. Treating the teeth or the animal alone does not stop the violence.
There is a big step change we need to begin to make in this area this year. That will include becoming very much a part of the World Heath Organisation approach and working with public health and clinicians to solve the problem.
Right here and right now there is work for us. Operation Greenshield, under Chief Inspector Sean Russell, has been our response to reducing violence in a public place. We need to drive this hard this year and use the accident and emergency data we already have to ensure a full picture of our violence. Get tight on delinquent licensing as alcohol is at the centre of violence. Grip and manage domestic abuse. The new Service Transformation teams for violence, sexual violence and domestic violence should ensure we are much better at bringing people to justice and caring for victims. We can and should be better at both. Equally these teams are absolutely about trying to prevent violence by helping LPUs recognise patterns of behaviour or repeat locations for violence and helping divert violent offenders where we can see referral pathways.
To find out more you can see the presentation – Violence affecting local residents across the West Midlands â€“ shown at this weekâ€™s Force Leadership Conference here (WMP staff only).
A police and health partnership is the most significant opportunity we have to deliver some real sustainable change on a problem too many see as incurable. I hope more news will follow on the work we are starting.