Merseyside Police has secured £3.37m of government funding to work with partners to tackle violent crime, the region’s Police Commissioner has today announced.

The money has been allocated from the Home Secretary’s Serious Violence Fund to establish the region’s first Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), strengthening its response to the increase in incidences of serious violence, including knife crime.

VRUs are designed to bring a wide range of partners, including the police, local authorities, health and education professionals, community leaders and other key stakeholders together to adopt a public health approach to tackling serious violence. The VRU will focus on reducing crime by preventing children and young people from entering into criminal activities in the first place.

The allocation of funding comes just a month after the Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, announced her intention to establish a multi-agency partnership, the Violence Reduction Partnership, with the aim of preventing and reducing the incidences of violence, as well as identifying the underlying reasons for the recent increase in serious crime on Merseyside.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: “After lobbying central government for many months about the need for extra funding to tackling serious violence in Merseyside, I am pleased that ministers have listened.

“This award of £3.37m will enable Merseyside Police to work with our partners to establish a Violence Reduction Unit which will help to bolster the response to serious violence and knife crime. The causes of violence are complex and deep-seated. If we are determined to make a lasting change and break the violent hold that some gangs have over some of our neighbourhoods, it is essential that all of those who can help the police embrace this opportunity to do so. We need to look beyond the immediate suppression of violence, important though that is, to societal problems including poverty, mental ill-health, education, issues of addiction and lack of opportunity.

“This funding will support the work already underway to explore a public health approach to tackling the underlying causes of serious violence with the long term aim of preventing and reducing incidences of violence on Merseyside. It will also strengthen the police and our partners in their relentless fight against crime networks and, in particular focus on breaking the cycle of offending, tackling the exploitation of young people and dismantling the county lines structures.

“While this investment is very welcome, it does need to be viewed in the wider context; Merseyside Police has been cut by £110m since 2010, leading to the loss of more than 1,600 officers and staff. This award is a one-off payment for a specific project which must be spent in this financial year. So, while it enables Merseyside Police, working with our community safety partners, to reinforce the fight against serious violence in the short term, it does not offer a long-term solution to funding our police service. We need a sustainable approach which will ensure we have the funds we need year on year and I will continue to urge ministers to enable this.”

Merseyside Police’s Deputy Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, said: “The £3.37m funding allocated by the Home Office for this year will be used to establish an effective public health approach to reducing violent crime, early intervention and protecting our communities.

“The unique approach will be put together by representatives from various organisations across Merseyside including local authorities, health trusts, education and other key stakeholders, and they will work together with Merseyside Police to develop a comprehensive approach to tackling serious violent crime, including knife crime.

“The partnership will be focussed on making the streets of Merseyside safer through sharing professional knowledge and developing enhanced and robust strategies to put offenders on the back foot, whilst at the same time providing support for victims and preventing young people from becoming involved in crime.”

The funding has been provisionally allocated to 18 PCCs in areas that are worst affected by serious violence, and will be spent in partnership with local authority, health and education partners across England and Wales. It comes a month after Merseyside Police was allocated a total of £4.2m in “surge funding” to enable Merseyside to deliver short term operational activities to tackle serious violence, focussing on reducing and reacting to street violence.

One condition the government has set is that the money must all be spent by April 2020.

The £100 million Serious Violence Fund was announced by the government in the March Spring Statement.