Knife Crime - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Examination of Witness (Question Numbers 200-216)


20 JANUARY 2009

  Q200  Tom Brake: Clearly, at the moment the interventions are not there?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: They are not there, no, absolutely not.

  Q201  Tom Brake: Can I come on to the Violence Reduction Unit? When it was set up in 2005 were there precise targets that the unit was seeking to meet and, if there were not, how do you measure whether you are being successful or not?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: That was the first issue. We were told to think in a different way. The Chief Constable at the time was Sir Willy Rae, and we called him, because he said, "Just do it. If you think it is the way to go, just do it." I think it is important that we did not set off on a journey blindly, but we researched, we had background, we had a general idea of where we were going. So when we were asked if we had a map, no, we did not, but we had a compass and that makes it much clearer for everyone to understand the direction we were going in, because services are all set up in different ways and if we start to get entangled sometimes KPIs (key performance indicators) within different agencies actually inhibit working together, because if that is what you need to do and that is why you are there and that is what you have been measured on, why would you do something else? So, actually, it mitigates against good partnership working. For instance, the classic example is we have offender services set up different from the victim services. If two young men on an estate leave the house tonight and they get into a fight, what decides who the victim is and what decides who the offender is? It is who is best, who the police catch or who they do not catch, and the truth of the matter is, if we think, it is about the behaviour that led to that moment because the outcome is a happenstance. Some of the ways we measure. There are some quantitative ways. How many people did we speak to in terms of attitudinal change? We spoke to newspaper editors and, I think it was interesting, just last week there was a headline in one of the Scottish papers that said a young man had been found guilty and sentenced to 15 years for a murder involving a knife, but the headline actually mentioned that this young man had been born to a drug addicted mother in an abusive relationship. So newspapers are now starting to put some context into it. That is not excusing the murder that happened but rather trying to understand a relationship. If we want to change these things it is about primary prevention, it is about those early years. Otherwise, forget it, you will get more corpses.

  Q202  Tom Brake: Clearly, you have achieved quite a significant reduction in crime. I think you mentioned 20%. Longer term, do you think that sort of reduction is achievable or is it going to plateau out at some point?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: I actually want to increase the amount of violence that is reported to us. I would like to see it going through the roof, because right now only 50% of those who turn up at an A&E department (and it is the same in England) will report it to the police, so you are judging us on 30% knowledge, so whether it goes up or down is an absolute irrelevance, it is a measure of activity, because what will happen then, if you live in an area where there is loads of violence and you see it outside your front window, you will know someone who is in prison, you will know someone who has been a victim, and the chief officer stands up, or a politician, and says, "Relax; violence is going down", and you when look out your front window you know that it is not; it is not your experience. So two things: either that person is telling lies or that person does not know. Either way, it is not good for confidence and well-being in the community; so I would like to see it actually go through the roof, and we do have surveillance involved now in hospitals so they give more data for them so we can get a better idea of the whole number.

  Q203  Chairman: Can you tell me something of the impact of alcohol on knife crime: the availability of alcohol, especially to young people?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: I would say, first of all, I think, as I alluded to at the start, that in relation to knife crime we do not use the word "crime" at the Violence Reduction Unit. Violence is everything; it only becomes a crime when it is reported to us. The second thing is that alcohol affects all violence. In over 70% of murders alcohol is involved, in over 70% of domestic abuse incidents alcohol is involved; alcohol has been the elephant in the room. We have been mesmerised by heroin and cocaine, and it is absolutely right that we take due attention to that, but the truth of the matter is that alcohol is the elephant in the room, and there is research that is profound from all around the world. If you reduce access to alcohol, you will reduce violence. Whether you reduce that access by licensing laws, by price, by availability, by enforcement of legislation, if you reduce it you will reduce violence, and no mistake about it.

  Q204  Mrs Dean: Can you tell us a little about the work that you are doing in primary schools? What is the scale of the prevention interventions that you are undertaking and the cost implications of that?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: We have campus police officers, who are dedicated community officers who work in schools. They start at the school, they finish at the school, they work with the head teacher and there is a few things that have happened around that. We have got about 50-odd now in Scotland. We have used schools as a venue for education. A good community officer will bump into young people, maybe 30 or 40, during his eight-hour shift, or her eight-hour shift, often in conflict situations. In a school they will bump into the whole school; they will be there; they are positive role models within the school. We have found that attendance at the school improves, bullying drops, school attendance, in fact, teacher attendance, often improves, graffiti goes down. We find a way of dealing with the drama before it becomes a crisis. Because relationships are established, these officers are able to share information about individual boys and girls in the school that otherwise they would not. For instance, if a young girl's dad is arrested for knife assault or domestic abuse on a Friday or Saturday night, if she is not at school on the Monday, perhaps it is important that the school are aware of that, perhaps it is important in terms of truancy that they do joint visits. Those officers also link into the feeder primary schools and the nursery schools so that at that difficult time of transition when young people walk into the big school, at least there will be one face that they know and it will be that police officer. Currently MORI are doing an evaluation for us of the schools, which will be out in March, but some of the emerging issues from that are quite hopeful. The arrangements we have locally, it is down to autonomous divisional commanders, or BCU commanders. Normally it is shared 50:50—the cost of a constable is 50:50—so it is maybe £25,000 for education per school, £25,000 for the police. It is a good investment.

  Q205  Mrs Dean: So that 50 are in the high schools, are they?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: Yes.

  Q206  Mrs Dean: And they work?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: They work with the feeder primary schools, they work with that school community: because the high school will have feeder primary schools (they work within that community) and also any nursery schools that may be there, but in terms of primary prevention, we actually need to be further upstream—not the police, but we need to be further upstream. We need to, I would suggest, build fewer universities and spend more on nursery teachers—not national car parks for kids, but enrich good quality education.

  Q207  Margaret Moran: In Luton we are developing a toolkit for alcohol reduction, but the young people are devising that themselves. How far are the young people involved in devising any of your programmes?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: We work closely with Cathy Marshall, who is the Children's Commissioner at Children 1st, Action for Children, and this year we have we called it a youth engagement strategy. It is only an adult who could think of a title like that, but what that is about is actually listening to young people, linking in to the 32 local authorities in Scotland and saying, "What are you asking your young people? Can you give us the information that comes from that? Can we put some questions onto that?" I think that is the absolute key, because young people want to be safe, they want to be happy, they want to be with their friends, they want something to do, rather, I think, what we all want to do, and I think we need to recognise that services for young people are as much a right as services for babies, or services for adults, or whatever. We are not doing enough of that and we need to do much more of it.

  Q208  Bob Russell: I have been very impressed with what I have read about the Violence Reduction Unit and your evidence here today. Following on from colleagues, where you have made reference to other agencies and the fact that the police are getting involved at the lower end rather than waiting until the consequences, could I just ask specifically in connection with that: how is adopting a public health approach to violence reduction improved, if it has improved, data sharing and partnership working between the various authorities at all levels?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: First of all, adopting a public health approach applies a few things to us. First, we need to understand the scale of the problem. We then have a whole new lexicon of language. We start to think about protection and risk, we start to think, not in years, but in generations, and what we need to do. We think of primary prevention and the effect and, when we start to use that language, that shared agenda becomes inclusive for other partners because doctors can understand what we are speaking about, teachers can understand what we are speaking about. We are not speaking about crime and offending and jail, we are speaking a common language. So that is the first thing. We found our keenest allies, because at the start we had a coalition of the willing because we were not mandated to do anything and, as a police officer for 34 years, I actually thought that people would do the right thing because it was the right thing, but, anyway, that seemed to be a naive hope. A&E consultants were the very first to walk towards the light because they were passive receivers of the wounded and they understood. They had little control over how they could break out of that cycle, so they were very helpful. We went to Cardiff, where Professor Jonathan Shepherd has done a fabulous job, and we actually stole some of his ideas, and there is a survey form which asks ten questions which clinicians fill in. It is anonymised. Where did it happen? When did it happen? What age are you? Male or female? Was there a weapon used? And other ones. We include sectarianism as a question—gangs, and so on. That information is then matched with what we know and we get a clearer picture of what is there.

  Q209  Bob Russell: How widespread is that A&E ten-point question form?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: In paper form it is in almost every A&E, it is certainly in Strathclyde, but it is difficult with the paper form because we still only get a return of maybe 60 or 70%. We have in Lanarkshire a Health Board, which will be kicking off, I think, at the beginning of next month, an electronic system where we actually merge the data, and we have an analyst and the analyst will merge the data and she will feed that information into the local police tackling and co-ordinating unit.

  Q210  Bob Russell: But that is still voluntary. That is not a requirement, is it?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: We have that from the Chief Medical Officer in health. They are born into that. That is not down to local doctors, this on the system supported by the Government. This is proof of concept. Once it works we will have it rolled out throughout Scotland, and that will feed into the tasking and co-ordinating process.

  Q211  Bob Russell: I was wondering whether you could send us a copy of that form, because I am not sure it is nationwide.

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: I can say that Jonathan Shepherd, the professor, was Chair of the CDRP in Wales a number of years ago and by this method reduced violence in Cardiff by, I think, 40%.

  Chairman: If you could send that to the committee, it would be extremely helpful.

  Q212  Martin Salter: We want to probe a little bit the meeting you held on 21 October at Glasgow Sheriff Court, which appeared to follow on the very successful Boston initiative for bringing gangs together, getting them face to face with A&E consultants, members of the community and victims. It is almost based, I think, on the kind of restorative justice model but in a much wider format. How effective has that been? Is there not a danger that, whilst on the one hand the figures we have seen seem to indicate a significant drop in subsequent instances of violence, you may entrench that gang's intensity even further by almost institutionalising it as a result of adopting that approach?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: First of all, in relation to the gangs, we have had the gangs in Glasgow with the same names and the same territories for 30 or 40 years. It is already entrenched, so the "do no harm" motion was easy to deal with. As to the Boston project, my deputy, Karyn McClusky, came back having met David Kennedy at Harvard who had started this, and said to me, "This is what you do. You get young people who are involved in gangs and you tell them to stop doing it because you have had enough and you offer them something else to do."

  Q213  Martin Salter: That is it?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: And basically that is it, but what we did is, through intelligence, we identified all the gangs and every police force will have this capability to identify the gangs, who is in them, where they fight, what age, a whole range of things. We gathered that information—photographs, everything. We then visited them and shut the doors and said, "Listen, you want to be stopping doing this because the world is about to change in the east end of Glasgow, so perhaps you should come along to the Sheriff Court on 24 October." I should say, I am really making it very short, because we spent six months getting all the services together and selling the idea, but we did, and there were some very willing partners in that. At the Sheriff Court, we invited along 220 young men, 150-something turned up, 95 in the morning who were under 16 or under 18 but under supervision. We sat them in the public area of the court and we had police officers there. On the other side of the court we had about 80 professionals—teachers, social workers, voluntary workers, community workers all in that end of the court. The sheriff, the judge, came onto the bench and the court was called into session and everybody stood up and they were there. He welcomed them and then we gave them a series of inputs from speakers, no longer than four minutes each. The Chief Constable was first to speak, and when he spoke he walked amongst them and he said, "We have had enough of this. The communities in the east end of Glasgow have had enough of this", and while he was speaking on screens we showed the photographs of the guys, we showed the photographs of the connections and where they fought. We told them, "We know where you are, we know where you live, we know what you do, we know why you do it and we are coming to get you. There are 8,000 of us and, if we need to be there every night of the week for the next 12 months, we will be there. We will be make your life very difficult." We spoke about opposing a whole range of things. Then we had a group called Medics against Violence, who are all consultants who go into schools and speak about the damage that violence does, a newly formed group. They spoke to them about the damage that knives in particular do, that it takes an average 10 minutes for an ambulance to reach you but you bleed to death in eight minutes, and some profound pictures that went with that. I spoke to them about how difficult it must be, from experience, living in an area where you do not know if you are going to be chased when you leave the house at night, when you cannot go and visit a girlfriend because she lives two streets away and there is a gang there, how it inhibits what you do, that we understood that. We had the local minister speaking about burying young men. We had gang members speak. We had a mother whose son had had a dreadful beating speaking about that. We had voluntary groups where a young man who plays for the basketball team from Chicago, who was a member of the Crips, and his brother died there and he spoke—very powerful. We had two life-coaches, who were ex-offenders, who were really the most telling, and one of them said that he had met a man in prison that when he was 19 he tried to kill because he came from a different street and they became friends in prison, and when he went to his mother's funeral and he was standing at the side of the grave, it dawned on him that in all his 28 years he had never bought his mother a Mother's Day card. Young men link to their mums. That really got to them. We finished with a guy called Jack Black who runs an organisational called MindStore, which is a self-help motivation—a big guy. If you want a two-day session with him it will cost you £1,500. He came along for nothing because I knew him when he was a social worker, so we called in a favour. He came along and spoke to them and said, "You have all been given a card with a phone number on it. I am going to ask you a question in a minute." He said, "All these people here are here because they care about you. If you do not care about yourself, we do. We have had enough. We do not want this any more. You have had enough. We want to tell you there is another way of doing things, so I am going to ask you a question. Only the bravest among you will stand up, because the other ones will not", and he used some quite colourful language around that, and when he said, "Right, stand up", first of all ten stood up and then maybe 15, and then 20. Every one of them stood up except three and, as they were standing up, the professionals started to spontaneously applaud. In the afternoon we had 55 adults in. They all stood up. We had six young men in from Polmont Prison who were in the dock with prison officers. They would not leave until they had been given a card with a phone number on it. They have already been on the phone saying, "I get out in seven months. Will this still be here?" It will be. Within the first four weeks 70 contacted us, and they are now in programmes, because what happens is they phone a free-phone number, it is manned 24 hours a day, it is a no-wrong door. It might be about education, it might be about readiness for work, it might be about alcohol counselling, drug counselling, it might be housing, it can be a whole range of things. We have also set up a football tournament with 160 involved in it and yesterday morning my DCI, who is the project manager, received a phone call from the sub-divisional officer, who said, "I am just phoning you, Andy, to let you know, I had no disturbance calls in Easter House over the weekend." So we know it works. Everybody here knows it works. It is our ability our ability to deliver it consistently that is the challenge. It is our issue; it is not their issue.

  Q214  Martin Salter: Thank you very much. That was quite inspirational. A very simple question and a quick answer, because I know the Chairman needs to move on. Are you going to be doing more of this, should this be rolled out across the UK nationally and should it form the basis of the recommendation of this committee?

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: This is not a pilot, it is not an initiative, this is about changing the way we do our business, so this is getting embedded. We are not doing this and walking away. We have got funding committed to this for two years and we have got other funding planned for after that. It will roll out across Glasgow and it will pick out (?) work, because not every city has gangs issues, but there will be things that we find out about information sharing which are really good that will help other people, so I think there will be elements of it, and we have already done that. We have already run a workshop just last week that Detective Chief Superintendent Ball organised. So there will be things that others can judge what is best to do from that, but we are not going away, it is the right thing to do. We will not have the stats next year; we will not have the stats in two years; it is the right thing to do. There will be some indicators that we need to state.

  Martin Salter: Many thanks.

  Q215  Chairman: Detective Chief Superintendent, I think we are all very impressed with what you have said to the committee today. It sounds extremely practical, which is what we are looking for in respect of this report. Now that Mr Hitchcock has given up his job maybe you should apply.

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: No, I am sorry—34 years—Scotland is difficult enough.

  Q216  Chairman: If you could send us that written information that Mr Russell asked for, that would be very helpful, and it may well be that some members of the committee may come and visit your project in Scotland to see what you are doing there. If you hold another day such as the one you described, we would like to come along.

  Detective Chief Superintendent Carnochan: The 20 February is the next one. We have other ones, regular ones.

  Chairman: We are very impressed. Thank you very much.

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