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PCC backs communities in call for surgeons in schools to drive down knife crime
Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway says she’s prepared to help fund work in schools with surgeons showing students the real life consequences of knife crime after community members pitched the idea to her at a community safety meeting in Luton.

Against a backdrop of a 4% rise in knife crime across the county over the past year, the Commissioner was attending an event to brainstorm ideas to combat knife and gang crime with an audience of residents, councillors and community group leaders many of whom had never worked with police or her office before.

“Those around me were absolutely right when they pointed out that only surgeons truly see the impact of knife crime close-up. They are stitching together teenagers who should have their whole lives ahead of them but who will, at best, be scarred for life instead,” said the PCC.

“As a result I’m going to ask the surgical teams who work at Luton and Dunstable and Bedford Hospitals if they’ll be prepared to go into our schools to show pupils the reality of where knife carrying leads. They already deliver workshops to organisations like the Youth Offending Services but this is a brilliant, common sense idea and I want to make sure it becomes a reality.

“Quite understandably, many residents at this event were giving up their time more in hope than anticipation. They’ve attended meeting after meeting over the years and I, like them, want to make absolutely sure that this one isn’t a talking shop but a springboard for action.

“This idea was one of a multitude of practical, sensible and constructive suggestions that my Office and every one of the organisations who hold the purse strings have a responsibility to try to turn into reality. We can’t keep on doing things in the same way or we’ll just get the same results and let young people down. The absolute tragedy is that I’m told that many of them are carrying knives in the mistaken belief that it makes them safer but, in the run up to a campaign my Office ran this Spring to get pupils to create their own anti-knife crime radio ad, we all heard that almost half of the young men killed in the Metropolitan Police area in the previous year were murdered with their own weapons,” she said.

The Commissioner said that the community ideas raised with her to combat knife crime included:-

* An anonymous reporting line for passing on information about the whereabouts of weapons hidden by gangs which could be organised through Crimestoppers with a campaign to stress that it is impossible for callers to be traced or identified on the freephone Crimestoppers’ line 

* Providing ‘safe spaces’ for young people after school and also for parents to get advice over gangs and knife issues, set away from gang hotspots

* A ‘youth parliament’ to gather the views of young people themselves rather than imposing them, however well-meaning

* A theatre performance offered to all parents to see the graphic production recently commissioned by the PCC for all pupils of 11 and over in the county  

* A march or similar event with the message “our children, our problem” to drive home the reality that their communities and families completely reject the knife carrying culture

* Establish the ‘influencers” who young people will listen to in their communities whether DJs or those well-known as musicians or for sports and get them to lead campaigns

*Start anti-gang education and support far earlier - in primary schools

“There are no quick fixes for this but the tragedy is that knife-carrying will take the lives of more of our children before it is dramatically reduced unless we try all the suggestions put to us and fund them together. Youth clubs have virtually disappeared, both the authorities and communities themselves have to get them re-started along the lines of the outstanding ‘Right Time to Shine’ which I back in Lewsey Farm, only minutes away from this meeting venue.

“Last weekend two boys ended up in Luton and Dunstable Hospital with serious, life-changing injuries after a group gathered with knives and machetes in Leagrave. I want to congratulate the Luton Community Safety Partnership for having the courage to tackle this head on, and within days, with this follow-up meeting. Now let’s see all those who have some funding to make a difference do just that and provide what communities and kids themselves think will make a difference and do it quickly as there is no time to lose,” she said.

The meeting was held from 6-8pm on Monday 2 July at the Chalk Hills Academy (Leagrave High Street, Luton) and was attended by members of the Luton Community Safety Partnership, David Collins of the Youth Offending Service in Luton and Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire and Superintendent Juliette Everett for Bedfordshire Police.

The PCC is now intending to hire a theatre in the town, and also in Bedford, in term time to offer parents the chance to view the hard-hitting production by theatre production company Alter Ego to illustrate the dangers of getting involved in ‘county lines’ activity, carrying drugs, cash and weapons for older gang members and a second, equally graphic, mini-play based on a real life story of a boy lured into exploitation by a paedophile gang.