Violent crime 'a health issue' says Merseyside police commissioner

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Image caption Knife crime hit record levels across England and Wales in 2018

The "disease" of serious violence on Merseyside should be treated as a public health issue, the region's police commissioner has said.

Jane Kennedy made the claim at the launch of a new Violence Reduction Partnership aimed at tackling the root causes of violent crime.

It follows the success of a similar model in Scotland, which saw the number of homicides fall by half in a decade.

Ms Kennedy said it could take ten years to "really turn things around".

The partnership will be made up of specialists in police, health and local government, she said.

Its aim will be to prevent and reduce the incidences of violence, including knife and gun crime, as well as identifying the reasons why such crimes rose on Merseyside by more than a third in 2018.

Image caption Merseyside PCC Jane Kennedy is launching a public health approach to violent crime

Last month, the prime minister hosted a youth violence summit at which she said: "We cannot simply arrest ourselves out of this problem."

"The challenge is to find a different way of working which has already proven its worth. So we know that a public health approach, as adopted in Scotland has borne fruit," Ms Kennedy told the BBC.

"It may have taken 10 years to really turn things around but what the government are saying is 'We're committed to this if you are'.

The partnership will be led by Professor John Ashton, the former regional director of public health in the North West.

"Serious violence is a disease which is infecting our communities. We know that this approach can and does work, we have seen the evidence from other parts of the world," he said.

Police forces across England and Wales saw an increase in violent crime over the past year, with knife crime rising to record levels, according to data released by the Office for National Statistics in April.

In Scotland, the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) was set up in 2005 to stem a tide of knife crime that saw Glasgow become Europe's murder capital.

The number of homicides north of the border more than halved, from 137 in 2004/5 to 59 in 2017/18 - the joint lowest level since 1976.

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