CHILDREN as young as 10 will be targeted in a campaign to sway them against gangs and knife crime.
A hard-hitting play about the dangers of peer pressure will be performed to hundreds of pupils from Leeds schools.
It is part of the “Leeds Lives not Knives” campaign, which is taking a far more direct approach to getting this message over to young people across our city.
PC Mark Rothery, of Chapeltown Police, who helped organise the campaign, explains: “We need different ways of reaching the young people. There is no point in me, a police officer, standing and lecturing them about the dangers of knives, as it just won’t work. This performance of the play called Terriers is amazing, with a real life story at the heart of it.
“We have secured funding of £16,5000 to pay for the week long of performances which we think is a great way to capture the attention of young people.”
Pupils from primary and high schools are taking part in the ongoing drive being overseen by Kauser Jan, assistant head at Bankside Primary in Harehills, with support from former ‘bad boy’ Blacka Brown, from Chapeltown who tells the perpetrator side after carrying a knife in his younger years and was also a stabbing victim himself at the age of 17.
Sarah Lloyd, whose 17-year-old son Kieran Butterworth was murdered during a knife attack in 2013, is also backing the campaign using her first-hand experience of the devastating consequences of knife crime to educate others about the issue.
Kauser Jan said: “Children from year 6, the top class at primary, and also years 7 and 8 at high school, will take part in a series of events to help prevent them from becoming involved with gangs, knives, drugs and grooming.
“The play is about peer pressure and how hard it can be to say ‘no’, This is the right age to reach them, so they are aware and will be ready for all eventualities.”
The performance of Terriers, written by Maurice Bessman will be performed by the Royal Court Theatre, next March at the School of Contemporary Dance in Chapeltown.
The play focuses on a teenager called Aldo who is a talented sportsman who struggles with his mates urging him to join his local gang The Terriers. The gang is involved in a tit for tat war with rivals the DH Crew.
It has already been seen by 120,000 youngsters across Merseyside.
Earlier this year, a YEP investigation revealed the number of children caught with knives inschool has more than doubled in the past year. In Leeds, the findings revealed a child was caught carrying a knife inschool, on average, at least once aweek last year, with police figures rising from 20 children in 2016 to 51 in 2017.
INCREASE IN VIOLENT CRIME
West Yorkshire Police’s Crime Commissioner has said there is a clear link between cuts to police resources and the increase seen in violent crime across the UK.
In West Yorkshire there are 2,000 less police officers than in 2008.
Mr Burns-Williamson said: “There are nowhere near the number for a sustained effort to tackle knife crime and despite my attempts to raise the numbers, it still appears to fall on deaf ears.
“There is no government priority over policing and there is a lack of strategic leadership and just not enough funding to make policing a priority.”