Diversion from serious violence: Evaluations of Operation Divan and Operation Met Divan
About the study
We were commissioned by the College of Policing to evaluate Operation Divan (Op Divan) and Operation Met Divan (Op Met Divan), two early intervention programmes aiming to educate and support young people under the age of 18, suspected of carrying knives or other weapons.
Evaluation of Op Divan
Op Divan aims to help keep young people safe, reduce the likelihood of them offending, and to reduce the criminalisation of young people. North Yorkshire Police (NYP), alongside the Youth Justice Service (YJS)/Youth Offending Team (YOT) have delivered Op Divan since May 2018. It involves a voluntary face to face meeting between a young person and a NYP school liaison officer, NYP police officer or YOT officer.
The evaluation aimed to identify whether Op Divan was an effective early intervention in terms of educating and supporting young people under the age of 18, suspected of carrying knives or other weapons.
The evaluation of Op Divan involved:
- A process evaluation to understand barriers and facilitators to Op Divan’s set-up and delivery. We conducted 11 in-depth interviews, including with representatives from NYP, the YOT and local schools, as well as a young person who received Op Divan and their parents.
- Light-touch analysis of NYP management information (MI) about Op Divan participants’ characteristics such as age, gender and who had referred them to Op Divan.
- The police, YOT and school staff interviewees were confident that young people had not carried a knife or other weapon since receiving Op Divan, and so considered it a success. However, some interviewees discussed rare cases where a young person had continued to carry a knife.
- The light-touch MI analysis indicated that by the end of July 2020, 9 of 84 Op Divan participants had been involved in 11 knife crime incidents after the date they were initially reported to Op Divan, with incidents including possession and assault, among others.
- A committed lead who builds positive relationships between partners was considered key to Op Divan delivery. It was also considered key for the officer facilitating the meeting with the young person having the ‘right’ personal qualities for the role (e.g. being friendly, having a supportive and reassuring approach, and communicating clearly and transparently).
- There were a number of ambiguities around people’s eligibility and suitability for Op Divan, including cases where young people were talking about using knives even if they were not suspected of carrying one. Going forward, it will be important for there to be clarity around these ambiguities at the referral stage and at the daily management meeting where young people are allocated to officers, to ensure consistent and effective programme delivery.
- Police interviewees believed an early prevention focus could be replicated in any force, both culturally and practically. If the number of referrals in a given force was unmanageable, then they could be prioritised by grading the intelligence received and acting on the most serious cases.
Evaluation of Op Met Divan
Operation Met Divan (Op Met Divan) is an early intervention programme based in south London and delivered by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). The programme seeks to identify and support young people under the age of 18 suspected of carrying knives or other weapons. Its design and implementation were based on Op Divan, delivered by North Yorkshire Police (NYP).
The intervention typically involves a meeting between a Safer Neighbourhood Officer (SNO) or Safer Schools Officer (SSO) and the young person, where the SNO/SSO explains the risks and consequences of carrying a knife or weapon. Op Met Divan was implemented in Croydon in April 2019, and rolled out to Bromley and Sutton (the other boroughs in the south Basic Command Unit) in October 2019.
The evaluation aimed to identify whether Op Met Divan was effective in identifying and supporting young people suspected of carrying knives or other weapons.
The evaluation of Op Met Divan involved:
- Process evaluation, to explore Op Met Divan implementation, delivery and perceived impacts. We conducted nine in-depth interviews with Op Met Divan team members and wider delivery staff. The research team also observed ‘selection meetings’ where potential participants’ suitability for the programme were discussed.
- Cost analysis, estimating the total cost of Op Met Divan.
- Perceived impacts on young people from the perspective of the programme team included increased awareness about risks/consequences of carrying a knife/weapon, and improved safeguarding and access to education, training and other support services.
- Clear communication between police staff and the Op Met Divan team and delivery partners and effective information sharing, needs assessment and support provision was considered key to Op Met Divan delivery. Using a wide range of staff to deliver the intervention with young people was also felt to facilitate access to young people in different settings, such as in schools and the wider community.
- The current volume of cases was felt to be manageable, however it was felt that any increase would require additional staff and resources.
- Rigorous examination of different databases was time consuming but believed to assist with targeting the most appropriate young people for intervention. Combining databases in a centralised, easy to use format could support future delivery.