With thousands of reports of violent crime across Bolton in the last year, authorities are set to put millions of pounds into finding a solution. SEAMUS MCDONNELL reports on the new taskforce set to battle knife crime in the borough.

POLICE in Bolton have received more than 12,000 reports of violent crime in the last year.

This includes everything from minor fights to serious assaults, with a number of recent incidents involving knife crime.

Pressure is piling on authorities to tackle this issue and now police and council teams are set to invest £8m into a solution.

The Violence Reduction Unit is made up of specialists from a range of backgrounds and will focus on working to stop violent incidents, especially involving young people.

There will also be increased cash for police officers to target transport routes, town centres, emergency departments.

GMP superintendent Chris Downey praised the investment, saying it would help police across the region to crackdown on the kinds of violent incidents which have recently made the news.

“The creation of a Greater Manchester-wide violence reduction unit is a fantastic opportunity to build on our successful partnership working and problem-solving responses across Greater Manchester,” he said.

“Teamwork is required to address the causes of violent crime, and this will come through partnerships with GMP officers, youth services, education and more.

“The key to this is the sharing of information and working together with communities to decide the right way forward.

“For many that will be about enforcement and prosecution. For many that is going to be interventions and diversions.

“It requires each of us to ask ourselves ‘what is the cause and what do we have to do to prevent it?’.

“In most cases, the answer does not sit solely with the police, hence the need for us to work together with local partners.”

As well as spending on the Violence Reduction Unit, more cash is set to be made available for authorities to run ‘test purchases’ to make sure shops are not selling blades or other weapons illegally.

In addition, the unit is bringing in academics from Manchester Metropolitan University to map out incidents across Greater Manchester.

In Bolton, more than 1,000 violent crimes have been reported each month in 2019 apart from in February - a slight increase on the numbers from last year.

Many of these cases happened in the town centre, where 20 per cent of all crimes reported in June 2019 were violent or sexual offences.

It is hoped that analysing these incidents in depth will build a more comprehensive picture of violent crime in various areas and provide a better understanding of why these things are happening and how they can be stopped.

The project is being co-ordinated by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Bev Hughes, deputy mayor of the region, said the focus will be on youngsters.

She said: “Crucially, by working with families, communities and young people we can understand and address the reasons how and why people, particularly young people, can get drawn into violent crime.

“If we can turn young people away from violence at the earliest possible opportunity we can make a real difference to them and our communities.”

The unit was expected to begin its operations this month and is made up of four police officers, four members of GMCA staff, a “public health lead” and representatives from Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester College.

It is hoped that this combination of different groups will make the project a success.

Ms Hughes added: “Violent crime causes serious harm and blights the lives of victims, families and communities. We are committed, not only to strong enforcement against violent crime, but also to trying to prevent it happening.

“The work of this new unit will strengthen the good work already happening within our communities, bringing together police, local authorities, youth services, health, education and schools, as well as other criminal justice partners, to embed a community-led approach to prevention and enforcement.”

The Violence Reduction Unit is being funded through the Home Office’s Serious Violence Fund, which was announced earlier this year. Greater Manchester has been allocated around £8m to tackle violent crime, which includes £3.37m to establish the Violence Reduction Unit and £4.8m to increase the police response to violent crime.

This has included targeted patrols, weapon sweeps in key areas, and increased enforcement activity across the city-region, which has already resulted in a number of arrests and weapons, seized.

The announcement of the unit comes as recent figures show that knife-related crime is actually starting to come down.

Statistics provided by police show there were 229 reported crimes across Greater Manchester involving a knife or sharp instrument in June 2019 - the lowest total in 12 months.