How do we know knife crime is an issue in our area?
I have held the position of Chair for the Youth of Walsall since April 2017. Just after I had become Chair, we ran a survey for young people across Walsall asking them what they felt the issues were that needed tackling. Knife crime and gangs were voted the #1 issue with 918 votes out of 5241, followed closely by Safety with 700 votes. In the recent Make Your Mark Youth Survey, 1060 Walsall young people voted to ‘End Knife Crime’ with 196,897 voting to ‘End Knife Crime’ nationally.
Initially, we didn’t think that knife crime was a massive issue within Walsall, however, during the course of June 2017 to January 2018, James Brindley, Reagan Asbury and Rezwan Ali were stabbed and killed in knife attacks. According to the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy, the West Midlands has the highest volume of crimes involving a knife or sharp instrument from September 2014 to September 2017.
To tackle this issue, we decided to apply for funding from the Active Citizens Fund from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to organise and run a knife awareness campaign, ‘Real Knives, Real Lives’. Our campaign is split into three parts:
- Running four workshops with young people referred from Walsall Council’s Youth Justice Service, facilitated by Ray Douglas, a youth violence practitioner and supported by youth workers and Youth of Walsall members.
- Working with Fixers to create a short film that will raise awareness about knife crime. We hope the film will help young people to understand the effects of peer pressure to carry a knife and the effect it has on family. The film will premiere at the West Midlands Police Youth Summit on Tuesday 11th December 2018 and will then be available publicly on Wednesday 12th December 2018. We want everyone to be able to use the film in order to show young people the damaging and long-lasting effects of knife crime.
- Organising arts workshops within schools and planning an art competition for young people around the theme of ‘the effects of knife crime’.
We want to show young people the effect that carrying knives has on their friends, their families and themselves. We hope that our campaign will deter young people from carrying knives whether that be through the workshops, through the film or through the art competition.
Ray Douglas asked young people in the workshops ‘What’s your genius?’ This has stayed with me. I believe that every young person has their strengths, every young person has their genius and every young person has something to offer to their town or city, their area and the UK. If we can support young people to focus on their strengths, rather than their weaknesses, that may be the incentive they need to leave the knife life behind and instead try and hone their skills to be a better version of themselves.