The first of its kind in the city, the Leeds Lives Not Knives event was organised by the force to show the children the reality of knife crime and the consequences carrying a blade can bring.
Leeds Lives Not Knives was created and launched in February 2018 by Sergeant Lucy Leadbeater who previously worked in Harehills and saw first hand the impact this kind of crime can have on a community after the tragic stabbing of 16-year-old Irfan Wahid on February 10, 2017.
She explained: “The aim of the event is for young people to think about their actions, gain an understanding of how this can affect their families and learn the realities of knife crime.
“It’s not like telly, it’s not like the films, there are real consequences of being involved.”
The event was split into practical activities such as an interactive fake crime-scene and basic first aid training, and talks from Leeds social enterprise group Life Experience.
Set up in 2015 by Phil Pearce, 35, from Beeston, Life Experience is a group of volunteers who aim to educate children through stories and spoken word performances inspired by their own experiences with knives.
Sarah Lloyd, 44, whose 17-year-old son was killed in a stabbing, Alannah Craig, 36, whose husband is currently serving a 22-year sentence for murder, and Scott Hacking, 34, who was attacked by a knife were just some of the speakers.
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Mrs Craig said: “We can give a full story which should hopefully show the impact of this crime.”
The mother of two who lives in Armley has known her husband, who she is now separated from, since they were children.
Her husband is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for murder and she hopes to use her story to warn others and make children think twice before picking up a knife.
She said: “It can happen to anyone, our backgrounds, we come from really good parents.”
As a teenager she never considered the consequences of the criminal activity she and her friends were engaging in, she explained.
“At that age it’s the money that talks to you, nothing else.
“If someone would have told us that one of us would end up dead it would have made me think about what we were doing.”
Sarah Lloyd, from Harehills, lost her son Kieran in 2013 and she has campaigned tirelessly against knife crime since.
Miss Lloyd has been working in schools and communities since her son’s death and teamed up with Life Experience temporarily a few months ago.
She hopes the work will bring home the awful reality of losing a child to the children, saying that “six years later I am still watching my family fall apart”.
She said carrying a knife is becoming a culture.
“They’re either carrying them because they think they’re hard or to defend themselves. It’s becoming normalised.”
Miss Lloyd is currently studying professional studies at Leeds University and plans to set up a new foundation, Families After Murder which will offer support to the bereaved, something Ms Lloyd doesn’t feel she was given enough of.
“When my son was murdered, my support was 12 weeks of homicide counselling.
“It usually happens in the first year and I hadn’t even started processing what had happened and the impact on me.”
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Scott Hacking, 34, from Bradford, has been working with Life Experience for around 15 months. He was stabbed in 2016 by someone he knew before running into the road and being hit by a car.
The incident left him in a coma for a week and he has undergone five operations. His attacker was sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison.
“We’d had a few scuffles in the weekends before but the stabbing was unprovoked when it happened.” he explained.
He credits the attack with turning his life around saying: “It gave me a bit of a wake up call over the people I was getting mixed up with.
“My daughter was six months old at the time and I realised she could have grown up without a dad.”
He said of sharing his story at the event: “If it helps one person then some good has come out of it.
“I just want to help youngsters to make the right decisions when they reach these crossroads.
“Me and the guy that stabbed me were both mixing in the wrong crowds, he just chose to pull a knife that day.”
Sergeant Leadbeater added: “We’re trying to find a range of different approaches and we’ve found using real-life experiences much more effective at reaching children.”
The event was funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, through the Safer Communities initiative and the force hopes to be able to roll out similar events around child criminal exploitation and child sexual exploration in future.