An empassioned Karyn McCluskey, Director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, did it her way—and has reduced violent crime in Scotland as a result.
Speaking unscripted at Glasgow South Business Club, the trained, registered Nurse with a B.Sc and an M. Sc in Psychology explained her unconventional approach.
She joined Strathclyde Police in 2002 as head of intelligence analysis. The region’s murder rate was 70+ a year compared to the two a year in the Sussex Police area where she’d come from. “I couldn’t believe the level of violence in Glasgow” she told more than 80 Club members at the House for an Art Lover lunch.
“We had the highest murder rate in Europe. Glasgow was the most violent city in Europe and only 50% of violent incidents were being reported. People believed there was ‘he-haw’ that could be done to make a difference.”
But by studying the patterns of violence in the city and by studying approaches to violence reduction in the United States and working with police and medical colleagues, she developed a strategy for Strathcylde Police.
It was the ‘call-in.’ Gang members were ‘invited’ into the High Court and told by the Chief Constable in no uncertain terms: “We know who you are, where you live and what you are doing.” This was backed with clear CCTV and video evidence. If they chose to continue their lives of violence there would be no hiding place for them, said the Chief. They’d soon be in the High Court on their way to jail or be dead through gang violence.
Next, a surgeon would show in graphic detail what he or she had to do to patch up victims of knife crime. Someone who’d been jailed for a violent crime then explained how their life had been affected by what they’d done and by their sentence.
Finally a woman told what happened to her son. “The only person who’ll come to see you in jail will be your Mum” she said.
More than 10 ‘call-ins’ were followed by vigorous effort both to show that the Police meant what they said and that anyone who gave up their weapons and wanted to make something positive of their life, would get solid help to follow that path of peace.
The cost of one murder could be anything from £1.8 million to £7 million. “You have to consider all the stress and health problems around acts of violence and especially the parenting and early years Behaviour which repeats the patterns.”
Karyn McCluskey added: “Our homicide rate is now the lowest ever so we must be doing something right. Now the focus is on parents and children. We know if we can keep kids at school longer, there is less chance the’ll commit acts of violence, go to jail or be murdered.” She ended by saying that alcohol misuse was a massive issue. “We have to have a vision. We want to make Scotland a safer environment. That’s worth striving for.”
Her 2004 Violence Reduction report for Strathclyde Police resulted in the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit being formed. The Medics Against Violence charity in Scotland now works in conjunction with that Unit and enables Doctors and Surgeons to go into schools to spread the message.
Karyn is an Honorary Lecturer in Medicine at the University of Glasgow and a Fellow by distinction of the Faculty of Public Health – an arm of the Royal College of Physicians.
The Institute of Directors made her Female Director of the year and the Guardian Newspaper nominated her as Public Service Leader of the Year.
Photos from the Event
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