Top sports stars and victims back Leeds United Foundation project tackling violent crime in schools
School pupils in Leeds and across West Yorkshire are being taught the consequences of violent crime in a new project, led by the Leeds United Foundation.
Top sports stars, as well as those who have lost loved ones to violent crime, appear in a video documentary which is being shown in schools across the county.
Sarah Lloyd, whose son Kieran was fatally stabbed in Harehills in 2013, appears in the video and will help to deliver the sessions in schools once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
Sarah, who researches knife crime prevention at the University of Leeds, said the loss of her son is “devastating” to this day.
She told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “On a research level, I’m discovering that a lot of victims are becoming perpetrators because they’re scared.
“There’s a real fear. Poverty, a reduction in services, poor education and inequality has a lot to do with knife crime as well. I think the lockdown and the current economic situation is going to make it worse.
“A lot of them lack an education. It’s raising awareness on not just knife crime, on criminal exploitation and sexual exploitation and all the other dangers that they face on a daily basis”.
Funded through the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), the Positive Choices project uses guest speakers and video messages to engage with hard-to-reach young people who are most vulnerable to violence.
It covers a number of issues including knife crime, drugs, gangs and negative relationships.
Director of the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) Chief Superintendent Jackie Marsh said: “The fact that so many big names in the world of sport have lent their support to this project, is a real reflection of the paramount importance attached to this subject.
“It is crucial that we all stand up to this behaviour and guide young people in our communities to make positive life choices, which divert away from the potential for violent crime.
“The high-profile stars contained in this video will undoubtedly have an influential role in achieving this. Likewise, the individuals who have shared their own ‘lived experience’ of violent crime are an invaluable source of learning for our young people.
“The virtual approach we have adopted has allowed the project to continue during the Covid-19 pandemic, having initially begun with physical sessions in schools. It is really pleasing to now see this work starting to bear its fruits in spite of the challenges we are all facing through the ongoing pandemic.”
The Leeds United Foundation project is delivered in schools in partnership with the VRU, West Yorkshire Police and the HM Prison Service.
Steve Hartley, Violence Reduction and Positive Choices Project Lead at the Leeds United Foundation, said: “The sessions we deliver in high schools throughout West Yorkshire, cover serious topics such as the dangers of knife crime, gang affiliation and child criminal exploitation.
"By using guest speakers who are able to talk about their own life experiences and describe how making negative choices has impacted on their lives and those around them, we have been able to engage with hard-to-reach young people who often struggle to make the right decisions.
“The main aim of the initiative is to help young people make positive choices by creating positive pathways for their future. This would be impossible without the ongoing support of local organisations, dynamic guest speakers and role models.
"Together they help to inspire these youngsters and give them the motivation they need to understand the consequences of their actions."