Knife Crime And The Road to Glasgow: Exposing the Myths Behind Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit

The media has a lot to answer for when it comes to their systematic misreporting on knife crime. And while the racist and sensationalist rubbish spouting forth from the tabloid press is one issue, the so-called liberal media also get an awful lot wrong too. For example, in a Guardian article published in 2018 titled “Should we treat crime as something to be cured rather than punished?” the reporter launches into their article with a mistake. The article explains:

“In 2005, the United Nations published a report declaring Scotland the most violent country in the developed world. The same year, a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) of crime figures in 21 European countries showed that Glasgow was the ‘murder capital’ of Europe.”

But these “facts” were not correct, as can be found by following the hyperlink contained within the online version of the Guardian article. This link takes the reader to a 2005 Guardian article titled “Scotland’s murderous heart” – an article which begins with a clarification that was appended to it by the papers editors just a few days after it was first published. The clarification notes:

“The feature below mistakenly quoted a forthcoming University of California report as claiming that the country’s murder rate now exceeds that of America. However, the report combines figures for murder, manslaughter and other ‘deliberate and non-deliberate deaths’ and concludes that Scotland has a higher violent death rate than America. A recent World Health Organisation report, mentioned in the article, gives Scotland’s murder rate as 2.33 deaths per 100,000 people. FBI figures released last week put the US rate at 5.5 per 100,000.”

This is not to say that the murder rate in Scotland was not high, but it is just to emphasize the sloppy way in which crime is often reported.

Academic studies documenting the extent of criminal activities in Scotland, as you might well expect, openly acknowledge the existence of a serious problem that needs remedying. One such study concluded that at the start of the 2000’s, a man under 65 living in the most deprived quintile was 31.9 times more likely to die due to assault than one living in the most affluent quintile; for women, this ratio was 35.0.[1] In the same study, knife crime was seen to play an important part in contributing to such high homicide rates amongst the poor, and the article acknowledged that focusing on the problems relating to “gang culture” might help provide a targeted solution to such addressing such problems. Yet the authors conclusions were clear:

“…the extent of the inequalities seen for assault in Scotland, coupled with high death rates for causes associated with alcohol and drug use and mental wellbeing among the most disadvantaged groups, emphasises the need to understand and address the multiplicity of problems associated with deprivation and poverty.

“Our study has demonstrated the extent of inequalities in deaths due to assault in Scotland and the role played by knives and other sharp weapons. Although we have no information on the perpetrators of the assaults from death records, we have offered a comprehensive insight into the inequalities that occur and the extent to which they are patterned by socioeconomic circumstances.”

Getting tough on crime

Returning to the first 2018 Guardian article that discussed Scotland’s ongoing efforts to cut violent crime, the reader is quickly introduced to the now famous work of the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU). This Unit had been established in 2005 by Karyn McCluskey (then an intelligence analyst for Strathclyde police) and her colleague John Carnochan; while another key person on this project was Will Linden, who is presently the VRU’s Deputy Director. The latter is quoted in the article as saying that Scotland’s problem with violence is particularly linked to “poverty, inequality, things like toxic masculinity, [and] alcohol use, most of which” he adds, “were outside the bounds of policing”. To help address this oversight the VRU therefore tried something different and the Guardian reports that instead of a “tough on crime” strategy the Unit experimented with what is “described as a ‘public health’ approach to preventing violence.”

Next, the Guardian piece introduces their readers to the novel crime fighting approach which helped inspire the creation of the VRU — this being the work of American epidemiologist Gary Slutkin who is the founder of Cure Violence (a nonprofit which is based in the public health department of the University of Illinois, Chicago). Slutkin’s work is widely touted as presenting a new and progressive solution to violent crime and was popularised in the film The Interrupters (2011). The aim of his approach, which has next to nothing to do with the police, is to put “outreach workers” onto the street to “try to change attitudes to violence, as well as connecting people with job opportunities, counselling or education.” Another source of inspiration for the VRU’s work came from a Boston-based criminologist named David Kennedy. As the Guardian explained, Kennedy’s means for dealing with violent crime was predominantly focused on targeted policing and…

“…entails gathering together gang members and giving them an option: renounce violence and get into education or work, or face tough penalties. This meant ramping up traditional penal measures – increased stop-and-search and stricter sentencing for knife possession – alongside preventive measures in line with the public health approach.”[2]

Today the work of the VRU is credited with the contributing towards a significant reduction in Glasgow’s murder rate which “dropped by 60%” between 2005 and 2018. The VRU is also credited with overseeing a significant lowering of youth homicides; and as surmised in another Guardian article (published in December 2017):

“Between April 2006 and April 2011, 40 children and teenagers were killed in homicides involving a knife in Scotland; between 2011 and 2016, that figure fell to just eight. The decline has been most precipitous in Glasgow, which once had one of the highest murder rates in western Europe. Between 2006 and 2011, 15 children and teenagers were killed with knives in Scotland’s largest city; between April 2011 and April 2016, none were.”

This reduction in child homicides is welcome, but there remain good reasons to be suspicious about the overall role that the VRU’s public health approach may have played in lowering homicide rates more generally (discussed later).

Either way the Guardian article goes on to usefully highlight the initial “tough on crime” aspect of the VRU’s approach — which included an increased use of “stop and search,” harsher “legislation around knife crime… so people would be more likely to get a mandatory sentence,” and a lengthening of criminal sentencing for carrying a knife in Scotland which “tripled, from four months in 2005-06 to an average of 13 months in 2014-15.” These heavy handed and arguably anti-democratic policing methods are of course not in keeping with the typical way in which the public health orientation of the VRU’s work is reported in the media. Nevertheless, it was this coercive side of the VRU’s work that was used to bring offenders to court where they were then given a way out, but only if they cooperated with the VRU to help rehabilitate themselves. Here it is significant to note that the mainstream press never seem to dwell upon the potentially high numbers of innocent individuals who would have been needlessly brought into contact with the police and potentially into the prison system by the governments support of zealous and indiscriminatory policing tactics.

As it turns out it was only after a couple of years of applying the VRU’s “tough on crime” approach that greater emphasis was eventually directed towards the softer side of policing. Thus in October 2008 the VRU expanded their public health work by setting up the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV), which “combined the carrot and the stick.” This work was initially trialled in the east end of Glasgow before later being rolled out to the rest of the city. As the Guardian article puts it: “Gang members were given a choice: renounce violence and get help into education, training and employment, or face zero tolerance on the street.” That being said, the softer element of the VRU’s work was “discontinued in 2011” and “a source close to the project says the political will wasn’t there to carry on funding it once government funding ran out.”[3]

Deflating the legend of Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit

A further point made in the 2017 Guardian article that is worth reflecting upon was made by Susan McVie, professor of quantitative criminology at the University of Edinburgh. In the article we find out that:

“Nobody in Scotland would claim they have cracked the issue of knife crime. McVie points out that a reduction in crime generally in Scotland has not been even, and people remain vulnerable in those communities hardest hit. ‘Our analysis shows that the [general] crime drop has mainly been as a result of reducing crime amongst those least likely to be victims in the first place, ie one-off victims of property crime,’ she says.

“‘However, we found no significant reduction in the risk of being a victim amongst those who have the greatest probability of being victims of crime, who are from the most deprived communities. Indeed, we found that those who are the most at-risk people in society have actually seen an increased risk of being victims of violence.’”

In January 2019 McVie subsequently co-authored an academic report that further contextualised Scotland’s crime problems. “The rates for homicide and other (non-sexual) crimes of violence peaked in the early 1990s,” she explained, “but remained relatively high for around another decade before declining significantly from the early to mid-2000s onwards.” It however still remains unclear as to what caused this decline, and McVie adds that “there has been much speculation that it is largely due to the work of the Violence Reduction Unit”.[4] The speculative effect of the VRU was also highlighted by McVie’s co-author Sara Skott who has observed elsewhere that:

“While the ‘crack-down’ approach of the 1990s, including initiatives such as ‘Operation Spotlight’, seemed to coincide with an increase of violent crime, the interventions put in place by the Scottish Government in the early 2000s, such as work done by the Violence Reduction Unit and the No Knives Better Lives initiative, were put in place just around the time that homicide and violence began to decrease… As the findings of this study has shown, the overall decrease in homicide and violence seems to have been driven by a decrease in public violence among young men involving sharp instruments, which is exactly the type of violence these strategies and interventions tried to prevent. Although this is not proof that these interventions were successful, there is enough overlap in the interventions put in place at this time and the subsequent decline to assume that there at least is some relationship between the two.”

Yet looking at the actual decline in homicide rates in Scotland over time certainly raises other questions about the so-called success of the VRU approach– whose crime control strategy that was only rolled out to the whole of Scotland in April 2006.

To start with 94 homicides took place across Scotland in the year 2005-06, but this homicide rate then increased over the following three years and only dipped below 94 in 2009-10 (when there were 78 recorded homicides). Here it is important to highlight that the biggest decrease in Scotland’s homicide rate occurred in the year before the VRU program was first trialled in Strathclyde (an area which includes Glasgow) — with homicides reducing from 134 in 2004-05 to 94 in 2005-06. Between these same years’ homicides occurring in Strathclyde reduced from 82 to 62. This early unexplained decline in homicides indicates that other unknown factors might be at play in reducing murder rates in Scotland. Moreover, the homicide data indicate that the VRU program — that was initiated in Strathclyde in January 2005 — did not have any positive effect on homicide rates until around 2007-08. This is a key point to make as in the first year of the VRU’s operation the percentage of all Scottish homicides which took place in Strathclyde actually increased from 64.1% (in 2004-05) to 66.0% (in 2005-06); while this figure stayed stable in in 2006-07 at 64.4%.

A good case therefore should be made that the baseline year for comparing the effectiveness of the VRU should not be 2004-05 – the year that is used by advocates of the overwhelming success of the VRU – but the following year (2005-06). If we use the year 2005-06 as the baseline year to compare to 2017-18 then the effectiveness of the VRU program however looks quite different. Of course, homicide rates still show a decrease, with a 37% drop across Scotland between 2006 and 2018, but, and here is a very significant point, the total number of people killed with a sharp weapon remained exactly the same in both 2006 and 2018 – with their being 34 homicides in both years.

As Glasgow remains the city with the greatest homicide problem in Scotland it is also worth reflecting upon the numbers behind the much quoted 60% reduction in homicides between 2005 and 2018. In the year 2004-05, 39 people had been murdered in Glasgow, so a 60% reduction would mean that the numbers killed in Glasgow in 2017-18 was 16. Yet the interesting fact to draw out here is that the percentage of all homicides that took place in Glasgow remained stable over these years; with 29% of all homicides taking place in Glasgow in 2005 and 27% taking place in Glasgow in 2018. Considering the much-touted success story in Glasgow one would expect that the percentage of homicides taking place in this city would have been reduced much more over time than in other parts of the country, but this is evidently not the case. This again complicates the normal and uncritical celebratory approach regarding the alleged amazing successes of the VRU.

Finally, in a rare example of a newspaper article that problematises the alleged successes of the VRU, in April 2015 an article published in the Guardian quoted a former member of the Unit to shed a sliver of light on this subject. The newspaper wrote:

“Although Glasgow’s crime rates have continued to fall, some question the VRU approach. ‘Violence dropped and weapon-carrying offences dropped, but that was on the back of substantial work by police and other agencies,’ says William Graham, a lecturer in criminology at Abertay University. ‘So it is hard to say that CIRV was the sole cause of the reductions, though it did show a degree of success.’ Some say the publicity-savvy VRU were given credit for a general decline in violence across Scottish society.”

Bypassing structural violence: public health reinvented

Another significant factor that should be considered when it comes to ongoing attempts to emulate the Scottish strategy in other countries — as has been the longstanding demands of right-wing policy gurus — is the ideological orientation of the approach.[5] This is because although VRU is often defined as a “public health approach” that differs from a “tough on crime” approach, this, as has already been made clear, is not strictly true. The VRU combined typical public health interventions – like school visits warning of the dangers of knife crime – with increased enforcement measures that sought to further criminalise those carrying knives (even though it is common knowledge that most young people carry knives out of fear for self-defence, not because they intend to commit any crimes). Moreover, in Scotland we need to remember that a genuine public health intervention would not seek to further criminalise the population but would remain steadfastly focused on providing solutions that addressed the root causes of crime. Such an approach might include providing well-paid jobs for all citizens and investing in youth services. Neither of these types of genuine public health solutions have been utilised in Scotland. For example, in Unison’s 2016 ‘Scotland’s Damage’ report, the union noted that 83% of youth workers who responded to Unison’s survey “said they had experienced cuts to budgets since 2010.” This is a problem that had only continued to deepen as the years have passed.

What has happened instead is that “public health” has come to be closely associated with an altogether wrongheaded way of addressing inequality and violence – an approach to public health that prioritises changing individual behavioural patterns through both targeted education and coercion. It is this model of “public health” – which is heavily inspired by the work of Gary Slutkin — that is now being pushed forward by conservative policy makers all over the world. As VRU pioneer Karyn McCluskey put it when she recently compared older models of policing with her own “public health approach:

“An offence is committed, I investigate it, catch somebody, go to court and there’s an outcome. But I’m waiting for the offence to happen. If health did that with measles, we’d wait until you caught measles and then we’d lock you up until you died, or it went away. The epidemiology approach is to work out who’s at risk and stop them catching it.”

Note that the goal of this approach is highly individualised and is not focused upon examining or altering the structural factors that lead to the spread of crime (or measles).

But there remain critics of Slutkin’s epidemiological approach to crime. Writing in the journal Peace Review, military analysts Norma Rossi and Malte Riemann explain that:

“The public health approach under examination suggests that violent behavior itself is an epidemic that spreads from person to person. Hence, despite being framed as a population-centered approach, its node of intervention is the individual, whose behaviors need altering to prevent the eruption of violent conflict. With its insistence on behavioral change, this public health model to violence prevention echoes the current paradigm of epidemiology, which has become increasingly individualistic in its focus on ‘lifestyle’ and ‘risk factors.’ Such an approach is opposed to alternative public health approaches, which claim that the most important determinant factors of health in society are social, economic, and cultural, hence primarily political.”[6]

Making their serious concerns explicit they add:

“The public health model defined in epidemiological terms, redefines conflict as a medical problem, existing at the individual level and not at the structural level of political, economic, and sociological causes. Instead of addressing fundamental structural causes of conflict, a public health approach to understand conflict runs the risk of overemphasizing individual triggers that obscure rather than illuminate causes of conflict at the structural level. As such it has the tendency to overemphasize the responsibility of the single individual over the structural factors that co-determine complex patterns of violence and conflict, such as the historical legacies of colonialism, uneven economic development, and relative deprivation.”

Similar points were made over twenty years ago in an editorial published in the American Journal of Public Health which highlighted how “Addressing upstream causes is essential in confronting public health issues. Indeed, this perspective has historically been the hallmark of public health interventions.”[7] This prescient editorial contrasts public health’s historic commitment to focusing on the structural factors underpinning health inequalities with the perils accompanying a new “narrow perspective of public health” that we can now see is illustrated by the work of crime interrupters like Slutkin and McCluskey.

Reviving stop and search policing

As explained earlier, the work of the VRU was closely tied to an intensified extension of the use of stop and search policing powers. But this does not mean that some of the community aspects of the VRU were not useful: the VRU thus provides “increased support for early years, identifying and paying attention to young children from troubled homes, rather than simply excluding them.” Although such targeted efforts are limited because of the neoliberal logic that undergird them. Furthermore, McCluskey in an interview published in April 2018 by the Independent newspaper said:

“We brought in a zero exclusion policy, with massive efforts to try keep kids in schools. One more kid in school is one less kid I have in jail. Where do people think they go when they’re excluded? They’re on the streets.”

This measure represented an important step forward in terms of promoting public health, but for such an intervention it to be effective it would need to be twinned with increased funding for schools, not the ongoing cuts that have plagued our education system for the past decade or so. It is interesting that in the same interview McCluskey then went on to question the role of conventional policing methods, which in recent decades has always relied heavily upon stop and search. She explained:

“I had people saying get back to your work, why aren’t you arresting people? But I knew that despite the best 30 years of policing prior to 2002, with a 98 per cent detection rate for murder, it had made no difference to prevention. The policing side and the criminal justice side weren’t working.”

She then highlighted how her Unit had succeeded in getting the mainstream media onside: “We brought all the editors in. We said they need to be part of this agenda – set the agenda.” Part of this success meant that the VRU was able to work with the media to downplay the polices extremely heavy use of their stop and search powers. An example of this agenda-setting behaviour was revealed by an investigative journalist who found out that a leading “police chief tried to mobilise his force’s top anti-terrorism officer and senior criminal justice figures in an attempt to undermine” a critical academic study (published in January 2014) that exposed the ongoing abuses of stop and search powers in Scotland. This study had “revealed how: citizens in Scotland were four times more likely to be searched than those living in England; hundreds of children had been frisked; and that the overwhelming majority of searches had no legal basis.”[8]

Compared to the intensive critical coverage that stop and search had received in England and Wales, Kath Murray, the author of the 2014 report “Stop and search in Scotland: An evaluation of police practice” pointed out that “one of the more striking aspects of stop and search in a Scottish context is the lack of research to date”. Her study covered the period between 2005 and 2010, and here it is most noteworthy that the abuse of stop and search powers was most heavily focused in the part of the country where the VRU was in operation. Thus in 2010, 87% of all of Scotland’s stop and search were carried out by the Strathclyde police force at a rate of 168 searches per 1,000 people![9]

We can also observe that while the use of stop and search powers for most Scottish police forces stayed fairly stable (if still too high) between 2005 and 2010, this was not the case for the Strathclyde police force where its use increased year on year in from a rate of over 40 searches per 1,000 people in 2006 to a phenomenal 168 searches per 1,000 people in 2010. But looking further ahead things go even worse and Murray shows that “The upward direction in legacy Strathclyde continued from 2010, through to the dissolution of the force in April 2013” where the search rate reached 276 searches per 1,000 people.[10] This was truly a police force that was totally out of control, and so it is extremely disturbing that these numbers are never discussed when politicians and newspapers insist on telling us about Glasgow’s amazing “public health” approach that they are seeking to replicate in England. Likewise, it is equally disturbing that McCluskey would on the one hand acknowledge that stop and search was not working, while actively presiding over a regressive policing policy that saw a huge expansion of such anti-democratic policing powers.

The Tory way forward

The Conservative government remain firmly wedded to expanding the use of police stop and search powers as part of capitalisms historic strategy for punishing the poor. The government however are immune to logic and even the evidence they cite in their own reports to justify the expansion of such police powers demonstrate that such efforts don’t work. This is particularly apparent in the Tories just released and completely debunked report on “Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.” Thus to justify the intensification of stop and search powers to reduce drug crime the government excitedly reference a study that suggested that a 10% increase in searches is linked to a 1.85% decrease in recorded drug offences, even though the academic study they rely on actually concludes:

“We found no evidence [of stop and search] for effects on robbery and theft, vehicle crime or criminal damage, and inconsistent evidence of very small effects on burglary, non-domestic violent crime and total crime; the only strong evidence was for effects on drug offences.”[11]

Uninconvenienced by matters like evidence the Tories are now in the process of trying to expand the police’s stop and search powers with their widely denounced and highly authoritarian “Crime Bill.” One important part of this Bill aims to give the police brand new powers to carry our searches without suspicion by creating a new category of offence known as a “Serious Violence Reduction Order.” Like most Tory policies this one has been a long-time in the making and was most recently promoted in a 2018 briefing paper produced by the right-wing think tank, the Centre for Social Justice (in a report titled “It can be stopped: a proven blueprint to stop violence and tackle gang and related offending in London and beyond”). In this report the think tanks anti-democratic policy wonks explain that their proposed Serious Violence Reduction Order would mean that if someone was found to be carrying a knife but did not obtain a prison sentence then the new SVRO power would mean the police would be able to harasses such individuals by conducting suspicionless stop and searches. As if that were not enough the report adds, “there is also significant scope for utilising GPS tagging technology to further reinforce the SVRO – by providing the police with real-time and historical data relating to the location of offenders under supervision.”

The centrepiece of the Centre for Social Justice’s 2018 report revolves around their demand to create a London-based VRU that is explicitly modelled on the examples from Glasgow and on David Kennedy’s work in Boston. But it remains true that the part of the Scottish VRU’s approach that the governments advisors remain most impressed by relates to their far-reaching use of stop and search powers. The report even glowingly quotes Will Linden, the then Acting Director of Scotland’s VRU as saying: “We went through the roof with stop and search. We increased patrols because we needed – in medical terms – to stabilise the patient, we needed to stabilise communities and that meant more policing.”[12]

In keeping with the community rhetoric undergirding the work of Scotland VRU, the 2018 report doesn’t fail to at least pretend that there is a “public health” component to their plans and so the reports talks about the need to provide targeted support for parents of children at risk from involvement in knife crimes. The report even accepts that “At present the options for parents who are struggling with such behaviour are limited.” And they note that:

“The most recent and extensive attempt to survey the youth services landscape in London found that between 2011/12 and 2017/18, at least £39 million has been cut from council youth service budgets in London, across 25 councils 81 youth centres and youth projects had been cut, and across 22 councils 800 full-time youth service posts had gone.”

Indeed, as reported elsewhere “Spending on youth services in England and Wales has been cut by 70% in real terms in less than a decade.” Therefore, the think tanks authors shock themselves when they observe that their focus groups with ordinary people led them to the discovery that “young people cited boredom as a key driver behind their gang involvement.” Thus, they conclude that it is “vital that young people have access to stimulating and meaningful activities to occupy their time.” No kidding! But of course, it is the Tories themselves who have been busy cutting funding for such vital public services, and the Tories have no intention of reinstating this stolen money any time soon.[13] The report’s authors instead suggest that money to fund such public services must be redirected from other projects like the National Citizen Service and from the Mayor of London’s Young Londoners Fund. And while no plans are proffered to increase funding for schools or public services the report’s authors believes that the way forward to help distract the youth from a life of crime is for “All secondary schools and colleges in London” to either launch their own “Volunteer Police Cadet programme or be affiliated to one nearby.”

ENDNOTES


[1] Alastair Leyland and Ruth Dundas, “The social patterning of deaths due to assault in Scotland, 1980–2005: population-based study,” Journal of Epidemiological Community Health, 64(5), 2010.

[2] Linden explained that when the VRU was first launched the resources available to the Unit were equally spread between promoting stricter policing and establishing new preventive work. However, Linden says that the non-policing side of the VRU’s work is most crucial and “today Linden estimates that around 90% of the funding and emphasis is on prevention.”

[3] The VRU had set up the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence as a “multi-agency initiative designed to reduce gang violence across Glasgow” with £1.4m of funding from the Scottish Government (for two years) and “a further £3.4m from partners in services and in kind.” Just before the CIRV project was closed VRU reported “that violent offending amongst those gang members who had signed up to CIRV had dropped by almost 50%.” Yet no funding was available to continue the CIRV as a stand-alone project. It also seems that the amount of funding that the VRU currently obtains is still meagre; with their web site stating that “the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit is directly funded by the Scottish Government with an annual budget of a million pounds.”

[4] Sara Skott and Susan McVie, “Reduction in homicide and violence in Scotland is largely explained by fewer gangs and less knife crime,” ESRC Applied Quantitative Methods Network (AQMeN) Research Briefing 13, January 2019. This report was drawn from research published from Skott, “Changing Types of Homicide in Scotland and their Relationship to Types of Wider Violence,” PhD Thesis, School of Law, The University of Edinburgh, 2018. In 1995-96, a peak of 134 homicides was recorded in Scotland.

[5] In 2019 Lib Peck (the right-wing former Labour leader of Lambeth Council) was appointed as the Director of the Mayor of London’s newly established Violence Reduction Unit (VRU). An article in the Financial Times observed that Peck is “in conversations with both the Glasgow centre and Dr Slutkin’s team about harnessing the public health approach to halt the wave of knife attacks in the UK capital.”
While public services in England and Wales have been undermined over the past decade the government has been happy to invest in building more prisons to punish those get involved in criminal activities or get caught once too often with a joint. Cambell Robb, “Investing in yet more prison places is not the way to cut crime,” Guardian, December 1, 2020.

[6] Norma Rossi and Malte Riemann, “The perils of public health based approaches to conflict resolution,” Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, 32, 2020.

[7] Ilan Meyer and Sharon Schwartz, “Social issues as public health: promise and peril,” American Journal of Public Health, 90(8), 2000.

[8] Paul Hutcheon, “Revealed: how Police Scotland tried to undermine criticism of stop and search,” The Herald, May 17, 2015. Also see, Chris Clements, “Police Scotland stop and search hundreds of young children – despite pledge to scrap controversial tactic,” Daily Record, February 4, 2015.

[9] In 2010 stop and search powers were used 428,428 times across Scotland with 372,926 of those cases occurring within Strathclyde. Data from England and Wales show that in the year that stop and search was most widely used and abused (2007-08) the highest rate of stop and search was found in London at a rate of 60 searches per 1,000 people.

[10] Murray adds: “By way of insightful comparison, the rate of stop and search in legacy Strathclyde in 2012/13, was over four times higher than the rate of stop and frisk in New York City in 2012.”

[11]  Matteo Tiratelli, Paul Quinton, Ben Bradford, “Does stop and search deter crime? Evidence from ten years of London-wide data,” British Journal of Criminology, 58(5), 2018.

[12] The report emphasizes the need to increase the length of custodial sentences writing: “As part of the work to tackle violence in Scotland, the average sentence for carrying a knife grew significantly, tripling from around four months in 2005–06 to an average around 12 months by 2014.” Other aspects of the Scottish legal system would seem to be more progressive. On this score a useful report titled “The colour of injusticewas produced in 2018 by the campaigning group Stopwatch. The report concludes that: “Custodial sentences should be abolished for drug possession offences and, following the example of Scotland [of 2017], there should be a presumption against sentencing people to prison when they would serve less than 12 months.” It is noteworthy that in the same report Stopwatch point to the positive aspects of Scotland’s VRU, and contrast the positive aspects of the VRU’s community work with its unsuccessful “Initial efforts” which “sought to tackle the problem through more enforcement, including extensive use of stop and search, and longer sentences for carrying a knife”.

[13] Heaping irony upon irony, the report explains “More needs to be done to understand the root causes of school exclusions and to use the point of engagement that schools provide as a way to embed young people into a community of support.” Indeed, education workers and their trade unions have been saying this for years.

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