A multi-agency effort combining work by police, partners and third sector organisations saw hundreds of knives seized, dozens of arrests and anti-knife messaging reach thousands of people in Staffordshire.
The renowned #DitchTheBlade initiative was rolled out across the county once again in a concerted effort to take dangerous weapons off the streets, including dozens of knives handed in to surrender bins across Stoke-on-Trent.
The force went into the week-long campaign, which began on Monday 26 April, aiming to make the anti-knife crime message more of a year-round initiative rather than something just focussed on over a few weeks each year.
As well as working with regular partner organisations such as Staffordshire University, local authorities across the county including Stoke-on-Trent City Council, agencies such as Ruff and Ruby and other ongoing partnership education work such as with football clubs Stoke City and Port Vale, the campaign also received the backing of former gang member Mark Bracewell. He has turned his life around and now tells youngsters of his experiences with knife crime and gang culture to try and stop them taking the same path he did.
Mark Hardern, Youth Violence Coordinator for Staffordshire Police, said: “During the week, all high schools and education establishments in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme were asked to support the education delivery.
“Some establishments were supported by both policing and other deliveries such as a hard-hitting presentation on the effects of knife crime by the partnership of charitable organisations The JJ Effect and Stoke-on-Trent-based Together We Make A Difference.
“More than 400 young people saw this, with pupils from approximately 20 high schools and some targeted primary schools being involved, all supported by education leadership in a multi-agency manner.
“All parents and carers also received direct letters via schools to have the anti-knife crime conversation with youngsters as we all have a responsibility to engage.
“More than 25 young people also received targeted visits and were spoken to with their families in an effort to divert them away from criminality. This was with partners including the Youth Offending Prevention Service.”
There was also work done within wider communities.
“Outside of schools, a number of public open spaces had weapon sweeps completed by police and partners where three knives were found,” Mark added.
“And more than 60 knives were handed into a knife surrender bin at Longton Police Station.”
One of the partners working alongside Staffordshire Police trying to get the county to #DitchTheBlade was Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Abi Brown said: “This is a hard-hitting campaign, but the importance of educating people into the impact and harm that knife crime can have cannot be underestimated. I’m really pleased that residents made the right choices during the week in voluntarily surrendering knifes, and communities can take reassurance from the fact that action is being taken against offenders.
“As the police have explained, knife crime is not something to just be talked about once or twice a year, it is vital that we all come together as a city to reject knife crime.”
The #DitchTheBlade campaign is part of the national campaign Operation Sceptre to clamp down on knife crime.
During the national week of action nationally, 7,500 knives were recovered across England and Wales – 758 of these were seized, with 6,792 knives surrendered or recovered from weapon sweeps.
Police officers arrested 2,131 people, with 604 of those relating specifically to knife crime.
According to figures from the Office of National Statistics, in the year ending December 2020 there were 599 incidents classed as ‘possession of weapons offences’ in the Staffordshire Police force area, which represented a 13% decrease on the year ending December 2019.
Mark added: “We will continue to pro-actively work to reduce all incidences of knife crime seen across the region. The police have a part to play both in terms of the pursuit and prevention of knife crime. The police will always get asked what we are doing about knife crime which, clearly, we are part of the solution for. However, by some of the great work taking place with different partners it all helps in the multi-agency messaging to tackle the issue.
“If members of the public have more information about people carrying knives, please report this through the normal channels.”
Anyone who has any concerns around a young person becoming involved in knife crime or carrying a knife can report their concerns via our website, through direct message on Facebook and Twitter or by calling 101. In an emergency always call 999.
Visit the dedicated webpage for more information on the campaign and details of the help and support available: www.staffordshire.police.uk/ditchtheblade
Tackling knife crime is a priority for Staffordshire Police and partners, under the multi-agency serious violence strategy. It is something that is focused upon every day of the year, with national intensification weeks used to highlight the issue and the work being done in this area.