Children and young people caught up in a violent lifestyle in the region will be offered a choice to turn their backs on crime for good under a US-inspired initiative.

The ‘tried and tested’ method was pioneered in America in the mid-1990s to address the escalation in gun related murders.

It was also used effectively in Glasgow in 2008 to tackle the city’s gang violence problem. 

'Focused deterrence' recognises that most serious violence is associated with a small group of people who are themselves very likely to be victims of violence, trauma, and extremely challenging circumstances. 

It involves identifying those at risk or already involved in violence, providing support and encouragement to reintegrate them into the community, while clearly communicating the consequences of continuing to commit crimes through the enforcement of swift and tough sanctions.

Project Connect has been awarded £100,000 over two years to continue its ‘focused deterrence’ approach to reducing levels of violent crime in the Hemlington area of Middlesbrough. 

Project Connect founder Joe Russo and facilitator Carlus Grant will deliver workshops create a package of tailored support to help safeguard young people aged 11-25 against violent crime and exploitation.  

They will work with Hemlington’s Linx Youth Project, which has more than 30 years’ experience in supporting people through a number of issues including mental health problems and addiction. 

Mr Russo, a former peer reviewer for the Home Office’s Ending Gang Violence and Exploitation team, said: "We will work with police, local authorities, probation and education sectors, youth offending services and communities to help open the door to those who not only need, but want, to get on the right path with their lives.

"Our job is to get those partners sat around the table and ask what opportunities are available for young people, then guide them to deliver those opportunities to the community.

"In turn, we want to make sure young people understand the consequences of their behaviour if they choose to not engage in the programme, which in reality, could end with them being dealt with by the justice system." 

A previous crime-busting project - Safer Streets 4 - has already had a major impact on the lives of those living in Hemlington. 

Figures for September 2022 to March 2023 show:

·        67 per cent reduction in antisocial behaviour  

·        52 per cent reduction in criminal damage 

·        78 per cent reduction on shoplifting 

·        39 per cent reduction in public order offences 

It comes after the Cleveland Unit for the Reduction of Violence - or CURV – released £312,583 to organisations as part of their work to stop people from getting involved in violent incidents before they happen. 

In April 2022, it was announced that Cleveland would receive £3.5m over the next three years for a violence reduction unit and CURV was established. 

CURV was given a £1.048m budget by the Home Office for the financial year 23/24. 

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Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner, added: "Research carried out by the Youth Endowment Fund shows that the focused deterrence approach reduces crime by 33 per cent on average, so I am pleased CURV is investing in a proven method which will help to make communities safer for everyone.

"Tackling the root cause of serious violence alongside working to prevent crime and reduce demand on police services means we can fundamentally make a difference to people’s lives – that is what our commissioned services are doing.

"Hemlington is just one great example of partnership working and targeted action delivering outstanding results.

"Project Connect and our other commissioned services are now being given the opportunity to build on that success to ensure it continues."