[holding answer 23 May 2007]: The Government are currently taking forward a wide range of work which will continue to reduce violent crime. We have, for example, recently passed the Violent Crime Reduction Act, which gives the police and local communities the powers they need to tackle guns, knives and alcohol-related violence.
Domestic violence is a particular priority. In December 2006, it was announced that Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell (Warley and West Bromwich magistrates courts), Solihull and Walsall (Walsall and Aldridge magistrates courts) had been selected as Specialist Domestic Violence Court areas. These specialist courts promote a joint approach to tackling domestic violence, with the police, crown prosecutors, magistrates, courts and the probation service working together with specialist support services for victims. Agencies collectively identify, track and risk assess domestic violence cases, and better share information so that more offenders are brought to justice, victims are protected and better supported, and further violence is prevented.
The Government, through the Government office for the west midlands, supports key partners in the statutory and voluntary sector in tackling gun crime and gang-related violence. For example, Birmingham Reducing Gang Violence has continued to be a focal point for activities and partnership work to reduce gun crime. It is chaired by the West Midlands police, and supported by a range of agencies and voluntary sector groups, including Birmingham city council, West Midlands Probation, Victim Support, Increase the Peace UK, Mothers in Pain and Street Pastors.
The West Midlands is also well represented in the Tackling Violent Crime Programme, through which the Home Office works intensively with practitioners in local areas with high levels of more serious violent crime, to support their efforts to reduce, in particular, alcohol-related crime and domestic violence, to improve police and other agencies' performance and partnership working, and to improve local strategies. Currently four West Midlands police basic command units are funded to utilise a variety of interventions, including the greater use of fixed penalty notices for alcohol-related offences, routine visits to “hotspot” licensed premises, and the use of bus and taxi marshals at peak times.
West Midlands police have also been particularly active over the past 12 months in addressing robbery. Three of the 28 areas nationally which became subject to special focus during the recent Robbery Initiative are in the West Midlands (Solihull, Wolverhampton and Coventry). These areas were required to produce an action plan, which would produce long-term, sustainable interventions and not rely purely on short-term police activity to yield short-term results.