On Wednesday 27th November, Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Lord Willy Bach announced a new £100,000 fund for projects that “get to the core” of knife crime and save lives.
Speaking at a high-profile conference attended by police and justice experts, the PCC said urgent action was needed to stem the knife crime epidemic and prevent young people from wasting their talent and opportunities.
And in a bid to kick-start a new multi-partner onslaught against knife crime in Leicestershire, the PCC pledged to commit £100,000 from reserves to organisations which turn around the lives of those who wield weapons.
In a further move designed to protect life, he announced that he has agreed to invest an additional £10,000 to install Catastrophic Haemorrhage Packs in 120 frontline police vehicles.
“Across the country knife crime has reached epidemic levels. It poses one of the most serious risks to young people’s safety today,” he told delegates.
“It cuts short the opportunities and prospects of young people, preventing them from reaching their full potential.
“I do not believe that we can arrest our way out of this problem. Tougher sentences and robust policing will certainly help, but it has to start at home. And it has to start early.
“We have to give young people healthy foundations on which they can build their lives and that means working with parents, schools and youth workers to manage aggression effectively when it presents itself and give young people positive behaviour strategies to cope with life.”
The Fearless Against Knife Crime conference, funded by the PCC and jointly hosted by Crimestoppers and its youth service Fearless.org, was held at Leicestershire County Cricket Club and heard evidence from leading knife crime experts including acclaimed youth education expert Dr Angela Herbert MBE, West Midlands Assistant PCC Ashley Bertie, Dr Matt Woods and paramedic Lee Brentnall from the East Midlands Ambulance Service, knife crime specialists working with Fearless, the youth brand of Crimestoppers, and Leicestershire Police representatives including Deputy Chief Constable Rob Nixon.
Dr Herbert, who sits on the board of the Violent Crime Prevention Board, which researches and promotes effective anti-crime initiatives covering education and health, as well as helping young people into business or work, addressed delegates about community responsibility and the duty to empower young people to succeed.
A report setting out the outcomes of the event will be drafted to inform knife crime strategy in the future but the PCC said some things could not wait which is why he was investing the funding now.
“Knife crime cannot wait. We must act now,” he said.
“I was astonished our recent bid for funding from the Home Office Early Intervention Youth Fund was turned down, alongside all but one of the other East Midlands forces, but while I will continue to fight our corner for more funding I simply cannot sit back and allow more lives to be maimed.
“Knife crime will never be solved in a day but we must start somewhere. What matters now is how we move forward and assimilate all we have learnt into positive action. That is why I’m launching this new fund.”
Deputy Chief Constable Rob Nixon said: “Along with our operational activities, educating young people about the dangers of knife crime is among the many important elements of the work that we do at Leicestershire Police.
“We know that it can devastate communities and that’s why, through our #LivesNotKnives campaign, we have taken our messages directly into schools and other settings aimed at young people.
“This includes the message that carrying a knife is not a status symbol and can come with severe penalties. Not only that but statistically, carrying a knife puts them more at risk of becoming a victim of knife crime themselves.
“Our recent collaboration with Leicester City Football Club saw us create a film with a selection of footballers appealing to young people to “make the right choice” and work together as part of team to keep themselves safe as well as their communities. Feedback from this has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Leicestershire Police has created a toolkit for anyone living or working with young people to use on its website. It is full of age appropriate information and guidance on how to identify those at risk and respond to incidents. Only by working with educators and other key partners, can we ensure the right messages reach as many young people as possible and that’s why the Fearless conference, which brings those partners together, is so important.”
Details on how to apply are available on the PCC’s website at: www.leics.pcc.police.uk