West Midlands Police to spend £7m on tackling knife crime

West Midlands Police has revealed how it will spend millions of pounds to fight the "national emergency" of knife crime and youth violence.

The second largest police force said "the lion's share" of the cash will be "ploughed into prevention and enforcement", after the Home Office allocated £7.6 million in extra funding to the force in May.

An initial 163,400 policing hours will be funded in the first year of Project Guardian, with existing officers working extra time in Birmingham's night-time economy and helping neighbourhood teams with youth violence prevention and enforcement.

The project will employ 75 new "police staff investigators" in order to relieve pressure on front line officers so they can focus on preventing youth violence.

An initial 163,400 policing hours will be funded in the first year of Project Guardian. Credit: ITV Central

The cash injection will also help purchase 15 extra squad cars as well as metal detecting "knife wands", while £1.5 million will be allocated for mediation.

The project will also give young people ownership of a £100,000 pot that they can use to establish initiatives to improve their communities.

"As a force we cannot prevent youth violence alone," chief constable Dave Thompson said in a statement.

He added: "The project is focused on how to build extra capacity within the force dedicated to combating youth violence, whether that's by more arrests, better management of offenders, education and diversion for young people or by building the best case files that we can."

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), David Jamieson, echoed that youth violence "is not an issue that will be solved by enforcement alone".

"Earlier this year I declared knife crime to be a national emergency. Project Guardian is a vital part of West Midlands Police's response to that emergency," Mr Jamieson said.

Mr Thompson said in May that it was a "huge problem" that services to steer young people away from knife crime have disappeared.At the time he welcomed the Home Office funding but noted that his force had 2,000 fewer police officers than in 2010.

Knife crime reached a record level last year in England and Wales with 40,829 offences involving knives or sharp objects recorded by police in 2018.

Analysis by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Knife Crime found areas suffering the largest cuts have seen bigger increases in knife crime, although it is not possible to directly compare the geographical areas covered by police forces and local authority boundaries.

The City of Wolverhampton, which is policed by West Midlands Police, along with the City of Westminster, were the worst hit, with youth services cut by 91%, according to the figures obtained under freedom of information laws.