Young people who are involved in violence will be given a new choice under a US inspired programme rolling out in Wolverhampton.

They’ll be offered help and opportunities to turn their backs on violence for good. But if the support is refused and they continue to make their communities unsafe, they’ll face consequences through the enforcement of tough sanctions.

The new programme is being led by the West Midlands Violence Reduction Partnership and is co funded by the Home Office and the Youth Endowment Fund. It uses a tried and tested approach known as ‘focused deterrence’ pioneered in Boston, USA, in the mid 1990s to address the escalation in gun related murders. It was also used effectively in Glasgow in 2008 to tackle the city’s territorial gang violence problem.

Research has shown that - on average - focused deterrence strategies reduce crime by 33%. It has been used effectively in cities around the world to reduce violent crime and is now being adopted in Wolverhampton and 4 other cities in England as part of a wider £7 million investment by the Home Office and the Youth Endowment Fund.

Councillor Jasbir Jaspal, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Wellbeing, said: “Focused deterrence brings together the police, the councils, community organisations, health services, schools, colleges and probation services.

“It works by identifying and targeting individuals aged 14 and over who are involved – or are at risk of becoming involved - in serious violence.”

Councillor Chris Burden, the council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education, added: “By drawing on the collective resources and expertise of the partners, young people can be offered tailored support like mentoring, access to education, training and employment opportunities, mental health services, housing advice or other services that can address underlying issues in their lives, relationships or neighbourhoods.

“However, if this offer of support is turned down and their violent behaviour continues, swift police and legal sanctions will follow.”

Simon Foster, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “This is an important new initiative that builds on the strength, solidarity and support of our West Midlands Violence Reduction Partnership.  

“The programme has been designed to divert young people out of county lines, gangs and violence; to enable our young people to access positive opportunities for the benefit of themselves, their families and society as a whole; and to prevent and tackle violence, protect people and save lives.”

Jon Yates, Executive Director at the Youth Endowment Fund, said: “Focused deterrence has worked around the world – reducing crime by over 30%. It’s time to know whether it can work in England. 

“Violence is not inevitable – we can bring it down. The important thing is not about being tough on crime or being soft on crime. The important thing is being smart on crime - we need to do what works.”

The impact of the 2 year programme will be monitored and lessons learned from West Midlands Violence Reduction Partnership’s work will provide new insight into how focused deterrence programmes can be adapted and adopted to reduce violent crime in the UK.