Open Forum – 4 January

Young people need to learn that carrying knives invites danger and makes them less safe, writes Peter Hunter

“I carried a six-inch blade whenever I left home – even at school. I used it once when my sister was being threatened. I don’t feel safe without it.”

Fourteen-year-old Darren isn’t unique. More of our young people are carrying knives because they think it keeps them safe. It’s a growing problem and we see it regularly in the many prevention programmes run by Crime Concern.

While we would always say enforcement has its place, we believe that to get to the cause of the problem we need to look at why young people carry knives in the first place.

In a recent conference held by our Barnet project, we discovered many of the young people present did not appreciate the dangers of carrying knives or fully understand the law. But they were keen to find out more. So communicating the dangers is important.

Currently, policy responses tend to focus on encouraging those who possess knives to hand them over or relying on the penalties on selling or being in found of illegal possession.

But when asked, young people say they carry knives because they need to for their own protection. They say they sometimes feel frightened on the streets and feel safer with a knife. So it’s simply not enough to say “don’t carry knives”. We need to find ways to give young people the confidence and strategies to stay safe on the streets without relying on carrying weapons.

This means young people need to learn how to recognise dangerous situations, how to defuse conflict where things risk getting out of control and how to respond safely.

We are addressing these issues in Crime Concern projects by running personal safety, weapons awareness and conflict resolution workshops, first aid classes and sessions about knives and the law. This learning equips young people like Darren with the skills they need to feel safe, stay safe and the confidence to leave their knives at home.

Peter Hunter is manager of Leeds Prevention Programme, Crime Concern

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