POST (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology)
Early Interventions to Reduce Violent Crime
Violent crime includes a range of offences, from assault to murder. It can be any action that intentionally inflicts (or threatens) physical or psychological damage. Over the past decade overall crime has decreased, and violent crime is down by 69% since 1995. However, homicides and crimes involving knives or sharp instruments have risen since 2014. This has been reflected in an increase in hospital admissions for assaults with knives or sharp instruments. Violent offences are disproportionately concentrated in metropolitan areas, such as London and cities in West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. This POSTnote outlines types and prevalence of violent crime. It describes risk factors associated with involvement as a victim or perpetrator of violent crime. It then presents evidence on the effectiveness of early interventions to counter these risk factors and prevent violent crime.
The Home Office has committed funding (through the Early Intervention Youth Fund and the Youth Endowment Fund) to support projects that use early interventions to reduce violent crime. Early interventions include both programmes implemented in early life to reduce the likelihood of future involvement in violent crime and those targeted at individuals when they are first involved in crime. Evidence from other policy areas, such as education, shows that early interventions can reduce risk factors (an experience or trait that increases the likelihood of a negative outcome). There are multiple individual and environmental factors that make a person more likely to be involved in violent crime. Similar risk factors are implicated in being either a victim or a perpetrator of violent crime and an individual can be both simultaneously. Individual risk factors include experiencing child maltreatment or being excluded from school. Programmes to address these risk factors include mentoring children/adolescents at risk, working with families to change a child’s home environment and providing mental health support to parents and children. Environmental risk factors include growing up in an area of deprivation or living in a community with poor relations with the police. Approaches to environmental risk factors tend to engage multiple agencies (including police, social services, community groups and health services) and can include changes to policing in a local area or interventions delivered in school.
- Violent crime includes a range of offences, from assault to murder, and can be any action that intentionally inflicts (or threatens) physical or psychological damage. The most common type of violent crime (making up 41% of cases) is violence without injury, which includes threats or minor assaults. The least common type is homicide (less than 1% of cases).
- There are multiple individual and environmental factors that make a person more likely to be involved in violent crime (risk factors). Early interventions include programmes implemented in early life to reduce these risk factors.
- Early interventions can be complex to evaluate because there are many different types, there are no standard evaluation measures, there are numerous contributory factors associated with violent crime, and assessing the long-term effect of early interventions requires multiple follow-ups over many years.
- Individual risk factors can include child maltreatment, school exclusion and poor mental health. No individual factor causes a person to become a perpetrator/victim of violence. For example, the NSPCC estimates that 1 in 5 children have experienced severe maltreatment, yet less than 1% of children become involved in violent crime. Programmes to address individual risk factors include mentoring children/adolescents at risk, working with families to change a child’s home environment and providing mental health support to parents and children.
- Environmental factors are those that relate to a geographic location. Deprivation and poor relations between the community and the police are associated with increases in violence in a local area. Approaches to environmental risk factors tend to engage multiple agencies (including police, social services, community groups and health services) and can include changes to policing in a local area or interventions delivered in school.
- Department for Education*
- Home Office*
Local Government Association*
- Ministry of Justice*
- Nuffield Foundation*
- Public Health Wales*
- Scottish Government*
- Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe)*
- Professor Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, University of Birmingham*
- Professor Mark Bellis, Bangor University*
- Dr Rachel Bolton-King, Staffordshire University*
- Detective Chief Inspector David Cestaro, National Police Chiefs' Council*
- Dr Jo Deakin, University of Manchester*
- Dr James Densley, Metropolitan State University (USA)*
- Professor Graham Farrell, University of Leeds
- Dr Mark Freestone, Queen Mary University of London
- Dunston Patterson, Youth Justice Board*
- Professor John Pitts, University of Bedfordshire
- Professor Arthur Raymond, Northumbria University
- Dr Alex Sutherland, RAND Europe
- Nerys Thomas, College of Policing
- Stephanie Waddell, Early Intervention Foundation
- Dr Andrew Whittaker, London South Bank University*
*Denotes people and organisations who acted as external reviewers of the briefing.
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