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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 July 2005, 22:06 GMT 23:06 UK
Tackling violence in the long term
DCS John Carnochan
DCS John Carnochan of Strathclyde Police's Violence Reduction Unit
Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan is head of Strathclyde Police's Violence Reduction Unit. He has 30 years experience of policing and his patch includes Glasgow, a city with a long history and reputation for knife violence.

In the following article he explains his views on violent youngsters and how he believes the police and the wider community should be tackling the issue.

"Violence is as stubborn as it is pernicious - it impacts negatively upon all areas of society today.

From inner cities to rural communities and towns throughout the United Kingdom its effects are pervasive. It damages the wellbeing and health of communities where the daily stress and fear experienced by individuals and families inhibits their lives and aspirations. Criminal Justice solutions alone cannot solve this.

Scotland is no different, and the Strathclyde area has suffered from high levels of violence for decades. Crucially, the majority of the allocated resources, energy and funds have been committed to dealing with the consequences of this violence, with little cohesive efforts being made to solve the causes. Health Boards, Social Work and Education Departments, Criminal Justice Agencies have all committed significant proportions of their budgets to dealing with violence and its consequences, a pattern of expenditure that continues today, yet in some areas the levels of violence remain unacceptably high, health is still poor, educational attainment low and our prisons full.

The West of Scotland suffers in particular from high levels of interpersonal violence involving young men, and its prevalence increases the likelihood of death or serious injury - violence of such intensity that it is virtually unique in Western Europe. The majority of young men who become involved in violence, both as victims and offenders, will be poorly educated and will, more than likely, live in areas described, in social terms, as being of high deprivation. These areas have, over many years, been the focus of the concentrated resources and efforts of the public and private sector and yet, despite these often heroic efforts, they are still classified as among the most deprived in the country.

In the worst of these areas interpersonal violence is almost accepted as legitimate, a community norm, something that cannot be changed. The scars from this conflict are evident on the faces of young men who live in these areas, and label them not as the victims they are, but as fighters - violent men. The impact on their ability to gain employment, relationships and operate within a society that is fearful of violence is considerable.

A great deal of effort has been expended on dealing with the consequences of social deprivation: poor health, alcohol and drug abuse and low educational attainment. Violence too has been tackled from this same perspective and there is no evidence yet that we are being effective. There is no tangible proof that attitudes are changing and until that occurs, there will be little chance of sustainable progress.

While violence is about behaviour, if it is viewed as an infectious disease the solutions that will bring about a sustained reduction are much easier to envisage and implement
DCS John Carnochan
The problems are easy to identify - we have done that - but the solutions are less clear. What is clear is that there will not be a single solution, but rather a thousand small victories that will incrementally deliver to our communities improved confidence, an enhanced quality of life better health and a return of greater aspirations.

While violence is about behaviour, if it is viewed as an infectious disease the solutions that will bring about a sustained reduction are much easier to envisage and implement.

We can 'inoculate' against violence by education in early years, education in its broadest sense, including the provision of support to parents who need it. This will offer to young men in particular with those non-cognitive life skills, which will permit them to get jobs and deal with their lives effectively without resorting to violence. Such a strategy will require long-term commitment, but we already have all the evidence we need that short-term initiatives do not deliver this type of sustained outcome.

We can also treat those already "infected" by timely and effective interventions, this will allow us to contain and manage the challenge in the here and now. This does not mean doing more of what we are already doing, because what we are already doing simply isn't working.

Fundamental to the success is the need to improve, beyond recognition, the effectiveness of every agency in working together. Success requires meaningful partnerships that are founded, not on a particular discipline, role or funding stream, but rather on positive agreed outcomes. We must also fully involve those key partners, who are often forgotten, the communities themselves, for without their involvement in improving their everyday lives, we will just have a few more decades of the same.

The challenge is big and daunting and it will not be easy but we must make a start on it and in some respects it does not matter where we start, but start we must."

Watch DCS Carnochan talking about policing the violence


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