How do you stop knife crime? What are the consequences of carrying a knife? What do you say to a friend who wants to carry a knife?
These were just some of the questions asked by school pupils during a question-and-answer session at Bedfordshire Police headquarters yesterday.
Chaired by former Detective Inspector Phil McCarthy, the panel was comprised of Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, Channitta Lendore – the sister of murdered Isaac Stone who was stabbed to death in Bedford in 2014, as well as Kelly Panaghiston from charity Link to Change and Nicola Westbrook from the Central Bedfordshire Council school nursing team.
The session allowed over 60 young students from across the county to ask the panel questions, and air their views about why young people carry knives.
One student praised Channitta Lendore for joining the panel and asked how she manages to deal with the pain of losing her brother while working with young people who carry knives.
“It was a really positive day today,” said Channita. “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.”
One 14-year-old pupil 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.”
Chief Constable Jon Boutcher said it was the first time the force has invited students in for an open discussion on knife crime.
He said: “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.”
Phil McCarthy added: “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.”
As well as the panel, Bedfordshire Police has carried out activities as part of Operation Sceptre including weapons sweeps to look for discarded or hidden weapons, targeted patrols in knife crime hotspot areas and visits at various schools across the county.