Carrying a knife in Sheffield will become 'normal' if action is not taken, campaigner warns
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Anthony Olaseinde, 32, runs anti-knife campaign ‘Keep Sheffield Stainless’ through his not-for-profit group Always An Alternative.
He is calling for urgent action to ‘make people more aware of the issue’ and show young people who ‘know no better’ that there is an alternative to violence.
His plan is to get five weapons bins rolled out across South Yorkshire, which allow people to dispose of their weapons safely and without fear of prosecution.
"I already have one of these bins, and I get an average of two knives every month. I once had a gun once. So we know that they work,” Mr Olaseinde explained.
"We need to take action now. It is a huge problem.
"I go into schools and talk to kids, and they know no better. They do not understand that it is not okay to carry a knife. They are shocked when I tell them that they could get arrested.
"It show how badly this country has failed when it comes to knife crime.
"If action is not taken in the next one or two years then carrying a knife will be completely normalised in some parts of Sheffield, and the chances of getting stabbed will be extremely high.
"The bins are, for many people, their only option. They may not want to carry a weapon anymore, but if they discard it in a bush somebody else might find it and use it. If they leave it at home it will always be there for them to pick up and carry again.
"We give them the opportunity to willingly and safely throw their weapon away in a way that makes sure it will be disposed of and not used again.”
Mr Olaseinde says that the Covid-19 pandemic has acted as a ‘mask’ and a ‘distraction’ from the ‘huge’ problem of knife crime in Sheffield.
“Before the pandemic there were positive steps being made against knife crime in Sheffield because people were aware of the issue,” Anthony said.
"But then Covid distracted people. Now that restrictions are being lifted I am already hearing about a lot more violence and stabbings.
"It is a problem that people need to made aware of again. I used to think that nobody cared, but then I realised that people can’t act if they don’t know there is a problem.
"As well as being a place where people can safely get rid of weapons, the bins act as a kind of big sign. People see them and they know that there is an issue being dealt with.
"And those who do know about the problem and are scared and worried about see that their fears are not falling on deaf ears. They see that something is being done.”
In South Yorkshire in 2019 there were 970 crimes involving knives recorded by police.
While this was a two per cent drop from the year before, it still meant that 441 knife crimes took place in the steel city alone.
And figures available from the Office of National Statistics released showed that there was an 11 per cent increase in possession of weapons offences in South Yorkshire between 2019 and 2020 from the previous year.
Just last month, 17-year-old Emar Wiley was jailed for the murder of Lewis Bagshaw – a stabbing.
Earlier this year police and crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings pledged to make tackling knife crime in Sheffield a priority.
Mr Olaseinde paid for the weapons bin he already has out of his own pocket and has been using it for the past three years.
He designed the adapted weapons bin himself, adding wheels so they can be moved to different communities where they are needed, and chains to securely attach them to different locations so they do not need to be permanently placed somewhere.
They are fitted with strong padlocks and chains, and so far the one he has been using has never been damaged, stolen from or broken into.
He empties the bins regularly and safely disposes of the weapons on a regular basis.
He is also writing a book about knife crime and violence in Sheffield, and all profits from that will go towards the cause.
Businesses are also wanted to support and donate to a raffle that will be raising money towards the bins. You can contact Anthony about this via the website, too.