Partnership poem plea for Staffordshire to ‘Ditch the Blade’
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Staffordshire Police is hoping that a poignant poem penned by a trio of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) will help highlight the difference everyone can make in tackling knife crime.
‘Ditch the Blade,’ a poem about encouraging young people not to carry knives, was written by PCSOs Andy Bagnall, Keith Mellor and Scott Swann.
The poem has now been filmed by students at Staffordshire University being read by police officers, partners and well-known people from across the county.
It will be shown as part of the force’s work to support the national knife crime week of action, Operation Sceptre, which runs from 16-22 September, and will feature a range of crime prevention and education activity to educate young people on the dangers and consequences of carrying and using knives.
Police and partners aim to encourage young people not to carry knives and to instead choose a different path for their lives, one without the risk of prison, serious injury or death. This message is crystal clear in the poem.
The video, which will be shown across the force’s social media channels throughout the week, features a range of well-known faces including Council Leader Abi Brown, Port Vale and Burton Albion Football Club players, as well as a trauma doctor and the mother of a knife crime victim.
PCSO Andy Bagnall said: "We wanted to get across the devastating impact that carrying a knife can have on a young person’s life and that just by carrying one they are putting their lives and future at serious risk.
"This is an issue we all feel very strongly about and, working with Staffordshire University, we have used our own time to bring the poem to life, organising the filming of people we hope will catch the attention of young people."
Activity will include various partnership work, with schools playing the video to pupils and other partner agencies delivering prevention activity around the county. Port Vale and Burton Albion football clubs will also be playing the video during home fixtures during the week. Officers and PCSOs will be visiting town centres to speak to the public, including young people and parents, encouraging conversations about the dangers of carrying a knife.
Additionally, officers will be carrying out stop and searches of anyone they suspect is to be carrying a knife and will use intelligence-led deployments, weapons sweeps and high-visibility patrols to target and disrupt offenders who carry and use knives.
Police will also be writing to, and making unannounced visits to, known offenders and suspected knife carriers informing them of the crackdown and urging them to discard their knives.
Assistant Chief Constable Jenny Sims said: "We know that tackling knife crime, which all begins with that choice to carry one, has to be approached as a team. We are working with partners, such as local authorities and others, to understand the motives young people have for carrying knifes and help them understand the grave risks of this decision.
"Although we have seen an eight per cent decrease in knife crime in Staffordshire in the last year, nationally there is an increase and in our county there were still 670 recorded knife crimes; a number we strive to drive down further. Most worryingly, in 134 of these crimes a young person was the victim and 116 young people committed a crime whilst carrying a knife.
"We hope the poem will help highlight this shared message and that the public will also join us in our mission to ensure that Staffordshire feels a safe place to be for all."
The week will be part of the force’s multi-agency partnership approach to tackling serious violence, which includes knife crime among other issues. Serious violence is tackled as a public health matter across Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent with a strong focus on early intervention and prevention as well as enforcement action.
ACC Sims added: "By approaching serious violence as a public health problem, we aim to deliver sustainable reductions in serious violence and improve the health and quality of life of all people in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, with prevention being central to our approach.
"We have an opportunity to make change and have a really positive impact – to change the destiny of some of the most excluded in our county and to improve their outcomes and those of their children."
Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire and Rescue and Crime, Matthew Ellis said: "The issue of violent crime, particularly involving knives, is being tackled head on, but even more needs to be done. Most places in Staffordshire do not have an issue, but some areas do. Enforcement by the police is effective, but that alone will not deal with the longer-term societal challenges in some areas.
"The underlying reasons why young people feel they need to carry a knife are complex and the fact is, carrying a weapon makes it more likely you'll become a victim.
"Public agencies and others need to continue the work, which is already happening across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, to discourage the carrying of any weapon and deal with the reasons why people feel they need to. It is so sad to think that just carrying knife because it makes you feel safer could ruin the rest of your life because of injury, or worse, or end up with a criminal record which would affect the rest of your life. It is simply not worth the risk."
If anyone has any concerns around a young person becoming involved in knife crime or carrying a knife, they can report their concerns via our website, social media or by calling 101. Alternatively, in an emergency, always call 999.