Hi, my name is Will Linden and I am the Co-Deputy Director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU). We work with Police Scotland and the Scottish Government and aim to prevent violence wherever it’s found from the streets, to our classrooms, homes and workplaces. The SVRU have adopted a public health approach which treats violence as a disease. My job is to head up the research carried out at the SVRU, go around the country and explain the work of the SVRU to groups of people including police, charities, academics and government. You can find out more about our work here.
Q) What word would better fit violent crime: desperation or manipulation?
From communicative_bird, Ravenscroft Primary School
A) A really interesting question. There are lots of different reasons why people commit violent crime in the United Kingdom. Some people may use violence to help them earn money in businesses which are against the law. For example in the illegal drug industry. Violence can be in such circumstances a way of manipulating people into doing what the criminals want so they can make money. Domestic abuse is often manipulative and is about fulfilling the needs of the abuser who wants to have power over their partner. Sometimes people may commit violent crimes like robbery out of desperation, and violence may be involved. This may be because they feel they need money to fund addictions to such things as drugs or alcohol. Robbery is also something which can be linked to increasing levels of poverty when people don't have enough money to meet basic needs like food and heating. Violence can never be tolerated by society whatever the circumstances, however it is important that we do try and understand why people commit such acts so we can prevent it happening.
Q) Has there ever been a serious crime where the criminal has got away?
From adept_fish, Newbury Park Primary School
A) Yes, unfortunately. Thanks to advances in science some old unsolved serious crimes, like murder, are being solved these days. Previously police didn't have all the tools we have now to track the culprit down, but things like hair or blood left at the scene of a crime can now be analysed and give new clues to help find the criminal. There are still crimes that haven't been solved but as science develops further, often new leads are found. Another reason why criminals get away is because sometimes people don't report things to the police, this may be because they are scared or they don't want to speak to the police. It's important that if a crime is committed it is reported to police otherwise that person may go on to commit more crimes and hurt more people. We all have a part to play in keeping our communities safe.
Q) How many people have been involved in violent crime this year?
From ambitious_opportunity, Beverley St Nicholas Primary School
A) This is a very good question. It's actually very difficult to give an accurate number for how many people have been involved in violent crime this year in the UK (worldwide is even harder). You could add up all the people who have been found guilty of committing a crime, however this figure will be a lot lower than the real level of violent crime in the country. Often crimes go unreported to police for a variety of reasons. For example, someone who is the victim of violence in the home may suffer lots of attacks before they feel able to report it to police, or they may never report it. Also, in some communities people may not like to report incidents to the police because they may be frightened they'll be seen as a "grass". What we try to do to get a clearer picture at the SVRU is to also look at hospital admissions for injuries like knife wounds etc. This combined with surveys of communities asking people about their own experiences of violence can give us a better picture. However, I'm afraid we only compile figures for Scotland and we don't release our figures, they're just used to help us with our work.
Q) What kind of crime is there the most of in Scotland?
From careful_apricot, John Ruskin Primary School
A) The police and government in Scotland produce figures every year showing all the different types of reported crimes that have been committed and how many of them. Traditionally, robbery tends to be one of the most frequently committed crimes. This figure has recently increased in Scotland. Sexual crimes have also increased over the years, though some of this is due to people who were attacked many years ago now feeling able to report the crime. The internet and mobile phones have also led to new crimes like sexting.
In the past, Scotland had a reputation for violence. In 2004/5 Scotland was named the most violent country in the developed world and Glasgow was branded the murder capital of Europe. A lot of this was because of young people becoming involved in gang fighting and being seriously hurt or killed. However, since then we have seen a big decrease in murders with a near 40% decrease over the last decade. It's a significant improvement but there are still far too many homicides (murders) in Scotland and every life lost is a tragedy. Crimes are constantly changing and increasingly we are seeing more violence occurring indoors rather than outdoors in the street or at pubs. There are also less young people becoming involved.
At the SVRU we treat violence like it's a disease and if you want to cure a disease the most important thing to do is understand what causes it. We try and work out why people commit violent crimes and then we try and develop ways to keep people safe.Will Linden
Q) What actions could the government take to prevent and reduce violent crime levels?
From fantastic_duck Faringdon Community College
A) At the SVRU we treat violence like it's a disease and if you want to cure a disease the most important thing to do is understand what causes it. We try and work out why people commit violent crimes and then we try and develop ways to keep people safe. We know from research that ensuring people have a happy childhood can be really important to ensuring they stay safe and healthy throughout the rest of their life. One thing governments could do is to make sure every child in the country is well looked after. Unfortunately, sometimes people do get involved in violent lifestyles and what we've found is often they feel trapped and can't see a way out. What we try and do is help people create a new and safer life where they are not harming themselves or other people. Things like having a job, not taking drugs or drinking too much alcohol and being able to get counselling for negative events that have happened to them can really help.
We believe the best way to prevent violence isn't to be tough on crime or soft on crime it's about being smart and following the evidence for what works to prevent it. Most importantly governments should never give up and think that violence is simply inevitable in some areas. Around 15 years ago Glasgow had very bad levels of violence with lots of young people losing their lives because of gang fighting. Some people had given up trying to solve the problem, but through everyone working together things have improved a lot. Teachers, doctors, police, parents and communities all decided the violence had to stop. Violence isn't inevitable, working together it can be prevented.