Glasgow used to be the murder capital of Europe.
There seemed no way to stem the rising tide of serious violence.
Then they heard about a different approach to crime in Cincinnati in the US and decided to try it in Scotland.
In 2005 they set up a Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) and treated crime as if it were a disease.
To stop a disease spreading, you map out where it is breaking out and take steps to prevent it going further. You tackle the root causes and not just the symptoms.
This is called the ‘public health approach’ to crime.
Recently the BBC asked me to visit the Glasgow VRU with a film crew to see how it was working. You may have seen the film on Look North.
They are having impressive results. Figures for murders and stabbings have fallen dramatically.
What is clear, though, is that this cannot be achieved by police action alone. They have to work with partners – schools, local authorities, the voluntary sector, the health service, employers, and so on.
This is because what people need to keep them away from the gangs and the violence is not something the police alone can deliver.
In Glasgow I met one young man, Callum, who had been carrying a knife since he was eleven. He said it was for ‘protection’. All his life he had been in fear – fear of being caught by the police and fear of being hurt by a gang.
Finally, he was stabbed nine times and ended up in hospital. Here he met someone from the VRU’s Navigator programme. This was a man who had once been a victim of stabbing himself but had broken free of the gangs.
The Navigator offered to be a mentor to Callum and help him get off alcohol, find a job and stick with it. This one-to-one support meant that Callum was now off the bottle and in work.
This was just one of many projects the VRU brokers that are turning lives around.
South Yorkshire Police have been following this same approach for the last two years so it was good to hear how we could develop it further in Sheffield. If only we had the funding.
The day after I came back from Glasgow the government offered us £1.6m to develop a VRU here!
With the VRU on the one hand and more police officers on the other we are now well set up to reduce violence significantly.