MORE than £1.1 million has been awarded to a specialist police unit intent on tackling violent crime.

The Essex Violence Reduction Unit brings together organisations, including police, councils, health and community leaders to prevent serious violence by understanding its root causes.

Now the cash has been awarded by Home Secretary Priti Patel to the police commissioner for Essex in order to boost the unit.

Witham MP Ms Patel said: “I will not tolerate the criminals who seek to draw our young people into a life of violence.

“We are delivering on the people’s priorities by recruiting 20,000 new police officers and introducing tougher sentences to keep offenders behind bars for longer, but agencies must also work together to tackle this issue head-on.

“These units are playing a vital role in diverting young people away from crime and the funding we are announcing today will allow them to continue this important work.”

Since it was set up earlier this year, the Violence Reduction Unit has funded several early intervention projects that aim to divert young people away from committing violent crime in the first place.

These include projects like electronic tagging of those arrested for violent offences.

Police commissioner Roger Hirst said: “With partners from across Essex we have been working hard to tackle violence in our communities.

“Over the last year we have invested in a range of activities to support young people at risk of being exploited while strengthening our enforcement activities against those who aim to exploit them.

“Working in hospitals, schools, social clubs and on our streets, we are effectively reaching out and tackling the root causes of gang activity that draw young people into a life of crime.

“The extra funding announced by the Government means we will be able to do even more to tackle violence by investing in programmes delivering real results and making a difference for people in our communities.”

As well as the initial funding for the unit, £2.9 million was also awarded to Essex Police from the Government’s £100 million Serious Violence Fund.