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Why do young people carry knives? Tough questions discussed between young students and the Force
How do you prevent knife crime? What are the consequences of carrying a knife? How would you advise a friend who wants to carry a knife? These were just some of the questions asked by students to a panel during a session at Police Headquarters today (Friday 21 September).

The event was held as part of Operation Sceptre, a national week of action against knife crime which is being supported by Bedfordshire Police.

Chaired by former Detective Inspector Phil McCarthy from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Chief Constable Jon Boutcher was joined on the panel by Channitta Lendore, the sister of murdered Isaac Stone who was stabbed to death in Bedford in 2014, Kelly Panaghiston from Link to Change and Nicola Westbrook from the Central Bedfordshire School Nursing Team.

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher said: “This is the first time we have invited students in for an open discussion on knife crime and I am really pleased with how it went. It is important to me that we not only get our messages around knife crime across, but we listen and learn from the young people who are most affected by this issue. Reducing knife crime is the responsibility of everyone across society, policing alone cannot solve the problem.”

The session allowed over 60 young students from across the county to ask the panel questions, but also give their opinions on why they think young people carry knives and share their experiences.

“I found it a very useful experience listening to young students asking the panel questions and also offering up some of their own thoughts around knife crime. I look forward to chairing these types of sessions again,” said Phil McCarthy.

One student commented on how much they admired Channitta Lendore for joining the panel to talk about the loss of her brother Isaac, asking how she manages to deal with the pain of losing a loved one whilst working with young people who carry knives.

“It was a really positive day today. It was nice to see young people engaged and having a different interaction with them was brilliant. I deal with my loss by knowing that by sharing Isaac’s story, it could save others from the same fate as my brother,” said Channitta.

A 14 year-old student from Stockwood Park Academy in Luton said: “Today was very interesting learning about how serious knife crime is and that it doesn’t keep you safe carrying as knife. I feel reassured by our discussion, but we still need to do more to help communities in Bedfordshire.

“I would like to see more youth clubs as I feel boredom can be part of the issue. I know of people who carry knives because they now think it’s a way of providing themselves with protection. It is one of the biggest worries we have now as you don’t know who might be carrying a knife.”

Operation Sceptre began on Monday (17 September), and is running until Sunday (23 September). As well as the panel, the Force has carried out activities including weapons sweeps to look for discarded or hidden weapons, targeted patrols in knife crime hotspot areas and inputs at various schools across the county.