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About the Violence Reduction Unit
A decade ago Glasgow was branded the murder capital of Europe . Determined to tackle the city's addiction to violence Strathclyde Police decided they needed a new approach .
In January 2005 the force established the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU). The unit's remit was to target all forms of violent behaviour, in particular knife crime and weapon carrying among young men in and around Glasgow.
Influenced by the World Health Organisation's World Report on Violence and Health (2002), the newly formed VRU became the only police force in the world to adopt a public health approach to violence. Treating it like a disease the VRU sought to diagnose the problem, analyse the causes, examine what works and for whom and develop solutions, which once evaluated, could be scaled up to help others.
To achieve this the unit teamed up with agencies in the fields of health, education and social work. The aim was to create long-term attitudinal change in society rather than a quick fix. The VRU also focused on enforcement seeking to contain and manage individuals who carry weapons or who were involved in violent behaviour.
In April 2006 the unit's remit was extended nationwide creating a Scottish centre of expertise on tackling violent crime. Funded by the Scottish Government the unit's job was to tackle violence in all its forms – from gang fighting to domestic abuse and bullying in schools and the work place.
To do this the VRU has had to think and work creatively looking around the world for inspiration.
In tackling gang crime the unit imported a successful anti-gang violence initiative spearheaded in Boston in the 1990s. The Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) programme broke up Glasgow's long established gangs by offering members an alternative to the violent lives they were living . The VRU also successfully lobbied for increases in maximum sentences for carrying knives.
With studies suggesting police under-recorded violence by as much as 50 to 70% the VRU's researchers have carried out injury surveillance in A&E departments, helping to fully define the scale of the problem facing Scotland.
The unit has also supported the training of vets, dentists, hairdressers and firefighters to identify the signs of domestic abuse, giving professionals the skills to safely and effectively intervene.
The VRU team is a mixture of researchers, police officers , civilian staff and former offenders who have turned their lives around and are now seeking to help others do the same.
More than a decade on from the formation of the VRU Glasgow is no longer the murder capital of Europe and recorded crime in Scotland is at a forty year low. However violence is still a chronic problem in Scotland with domestic abuse and sex crimes a growing concern. The VRU remain committed to it's public health approach to violence and are the only police members of the World Health Organisation's Violence Prevention Alliance.