After retiring from the police in 2018, then joining Barnsley Council, I managed to win a secondment to the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) in April 2021, as I felt strongly that the communities of Barnsley should be free of the scourge of knife crime and organised crime gangs.

My Council department, the Safer Neighbourhood Services, has been involved with the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit in order to (you guessed it) reduce violence in Barnsley, and do its bit for a safer South Yorkshire by adopting a Public Health Approach to crime!

Words are all well and good, but what does this contribution and approach actually look like?  Well, the Barnsley Safer Neighbourhood Service already deals with fly tipping, housing matters, and anti-social behaviour, amongst other things.

It sends a manager (me) to look after the relationship between Barnsley Council and the VRU by representing both organisations on strategic boards like the Safer Barnsley Partnership Board, and at all levels with partners such as other BMBC departments, South Yorkshire Police, NHS, Fire and Rescue, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, charities, and voluntary organisations, as we work together in our efforts to tackle all forms of violence. I also manage ongoing themes and projects initiated and funded by the VRU.

Amongst these thematic duties, I am privileged to attend and be a part of the Barnsley Night-Time Economy Group, and work with some incredibly talented and effective people who make sure that Barnsley town centre is one of the safest places to enjoy a night out. They have worked tirelessly with security industries authority staff, licensees, and other stakeholders to achieve the Purple Flag accreditation for Barnsley from the prestigious Association of Town and City Management, which shows a continuous commitment to improving the facilities and services in the town.

To contribute further, the VRU has funded a team of security staff called the Night Angels (or Nightlife Angels) whose job it is to patrol the streets and safeguard young females who are vulnerable for any reason, whether through alcohol or substance misuse, losing their friends, or having no charge on their phone. They will ensure these young females receive first aid, are supported by the police, or are taken home safely, as the situation dictates. This initiative shows Barnsley Council and the VRU’s commitment to tackling Violence Against Women and Girls. Up to the end of January 2023, 102 vulnerable young females were interacted with and safeguarded by the scheme.

If you are arrested and taken into Barnsley police custody suite for an offence involving violence, then the VRU has funded Plan B Custody Navigators, with the scheme managed by the charity, Causeway. Although any criminal justice proceedings will continue, Navigators can offer help in a variety of areas, including housing, finances, mental health, or drug and alcohol misuse, and they will be there to support you when you have been released. Over 300 people took up this help last year alone.

Of course, this is only a flavour of the things that we fund and do. So, if you are asked ‘what do you know about a Violence Reduction Unit’, you know at least a little more now.