What is the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU)?

01 February 2019

Announced by the Mayor in September 2018, the Violence Reduction Unit is bringing together specialists from health, police, local government, probation and community organisations to tackle violent crime and the underlying causes of violent crime.

Supporting London to tackle violence at its roots

We’re taking a fundamentally different approach to violence reduction – one where the public sector institutions and communities that make up London act together to help cut violence.

We believe that some Londoners already have some of the tools they need to tackle violence and its root causes – but many need additional support to help put their time, expertise or skills to best use.

The job of the VRU will be to help unlock that potential – by sharing information with Londoners and all partners about what works in spotting the early signs of what might lead to criminal behaviour, and focusing attention and resources on what makes a difference.

Stabilising and reducing violence in London

The goals of the Violence Reduction Unit are to: 

  1. Stabilise and reduce violence across London
  2. Find the major causes of violence, and co-ordinate action across London to tackle them at scale, delivering a long-term reduction in crime and associated harms
  3. Involve communities in the work of the VRU, and build their capacity to deliver the best long-term solutions to reduce violence. 

We believe that violence is preventable

The VRU will seek to reduce all forms of violence - whether it is committed with a gun, knife, broken bottle or fist, by a young person or by an adult  – using a public health approach.

We aren’t starting with a blank piece of paper – instead, we are learning from the successful implementation of a public health approach in Glasgow and elsewhere which led to a fall in violence.

A public health approach to tackling violence means looking at violence not as isolated incidents or solely a police enforcement problem, but as a preventable consequence of a range of factors, such as adverse early-life experiences, or harmful social or community experiences and influences.

In practice, this means intervening at critical moments in a young person’s life. For example, if a young person has had traumatic experiences, which might include family breakdown or being a victim of violence themselves, it means stepping in to give them the right support at the right time. Traumatic experiences in childhood (sometimes referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs), are more common in people that commit violence later in life. By addressing these risk factors, it is possible to prevent or reduce the likelihood of violent incidents in the future.

The Violence Reduction Unit will provide London with greater capacity, expertise and coordination to identify the major causes of violence and deliver early interventions to help prevent the spread of violence. 

A city-wide partnership with a local focus

The aim is to embed the Violence Reduction Unit in communities across London, with local VRUs co-ordinating delivery of interventions alongside the local community and partners - including the Metropolitan Police, local authorities, youth services, health services, and criminal justice agencies.

These teams will be shaped by community issues, and resourced and empowered to commission services that respond to their local contexts.

As well as local teams, a small VRU team will also be based at City Hall to provide leadership across London and develop regional analysis and policy which will support local crime reduction projects.

The Unit’s work will involve gathering data from health, criminal justice and other public services. This data will be used to help identify the underlying risk factors that can lead to violence, diagnose the problem and then assist in the development and the delivery of plans and interventions, alongside communities themselves, to tackle them.

VRU leadership

Lib Peck has been appointed to lead the Violence Reduction Unit. She has a wealth of experience, leading Lambeth Council for seven years, as well as serving as London Councils Executive Member for Crime and Public Protection (leading London Boroughs' cross-party work to keep Londoners safe).

Next steps

In December the Mayor announced £6.8 million to support the establishment of the Violence Reduction Unit. The bulk of this funding will be used to set up local teams who will work out in the community, focused on cutting violence.

With a director in post, the VRU is seeking secondments for specialists in local government safety, education, public health, health, policing, youth justice and from the voluntary and community sector.

Recruitment for posts in the local VRU and core VRUs will also begin soon.

The Violence Reduction Unit partnership reference group meets monthly, chaired by the Mayor.

Get involved and support the VRU

One of the VRU’s early tasks will be to undertake a needs assessment to shape its priorities.

Do you have any work, or any examples of community views on the issue of violence in London that you can share? If so, please email [email protected].