Tackling knife crime is the top priority for Sheffield’s young people
Knife crime is the biggest concern for Sheffield’s young people, a new consultation has revealed.
Over 10,000 young people from across Sheffield took part in the survey, as part of the Make Your Mark campaign from the UK's Youth Parliament
The survey findings prompted youth charity, Sheffield Futures, to carry out a consultation in the city's youth clubs to find out what people think about knife crime; the child criminal exploitation that lures young people in Sheffield to become involved with gangs, drugs and knives, and what they believe should be done to tackle the issue.
It comes after the The Star launched an anti-knife campaign in a bid to make the city's streets safer and persuade people to stop arming themselves with knives.
Official figures showed that knife crime has fallen by over 10 per cent in South Yorkshire.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show there were 960 knife related offences committed across the region between October 2017 and September 2018, a decrease of 12 per cent on the previous year with 1,089.
Make Your Mark is the largest consultation of young people in the country, which sees youngsters vote for the issues they want UK Youth Parliament to tackle.
Sheffield Futures chief executive Gail Gibbons said that tackling knife crime was not only the top priority for youngsters in Sheffield, but it also came out as the top national issue.
In Sheffield, the consultation revealed that while some young people felt safe because of knowing people in their local other communities, others said they do not feel safe due to personal experiences of murders, shootings and stabbings.
Some said they do not feel safe going into certain areas of the city or areas where gangs operate and a proportion said they felt that some people feel they ‘rule’ certain areas of the city.
A number of participants said they feel certain groups in society commit more crimes, and others said they felt knife crime was a bigger issue in other cities.
When asked why they thought people in Sheffield carried knives, the reasons given by those taking part included ‘to act hard’, to impress friends; to prevent themselves from being picked on; being a gang member; racism and a dislike of others; the easy availability of knives; for revenge and at ‘random’.
Youth Parliament member, Kate Hardy, said she believed the rise in knife crime was connected to gang crimes in Sheffield.
She said: “I think gang crime is a growing problem, and knife crime is a part of that. It's the drug culture.’’
Shona Rooney added: “A lot of it is from drugs. They carry knives to protect themselves because they think they're going to get stabbed.
“The big issue is cuts to youth clubs over the last three years. In the areas where they've closed, there are figures that show they've seen more people getting involved with drugs and gangs.’’
Kate said: “If you're having a house party and someone you don't know turns up outside, the first thing you think is are they carrying a knife?’’
Tapton School pupil, Sam Broadhead, said: “Even at Tapton, which is supposed to be a good school, knife crime was the most important issue for pupils. And that was really surprising for me.’’
Kate added: “If you do know someone who's in that situation, it's no good saying: ‘Get out of the gang’. It's about giving them other opportunities.’’
She added: “You get a lot of lads who are a bit smaller carrying knives, trying to make themselves feel bigger.’’
Shona said: “Someone I knew was stabbed to death in Woodhouse - Ryan Jowle. He was well known on my estate, and the devastation that causes for families is huge. We heard it was over territories, but no-one had any idea he was involved with drugs.
“Where he was stabbed was 15 minutes from my house.’’
Frank M'vila Kiongaze, aged 23, of Morland Road, Gleadless, was sentenced to 12 years seven months for stabbing 19-year-old Ryan Jowle in a row over territory.
The trial heard how the two men met by chance in Tannery Close, Woodhouse, on the evening of May 22 last year, and that a fight began.
During the fight the two men struggled for control of a knife - which the court had earlier heard had been probably been Mr Jowle’s - with both suffering serious injuries.
Kate said: “There have been a lot of people getting stabbed in the head or back for selling on someone's estate turf.’’
“It's a vicious circle. People think others are carrying knives, so they do. It's taking them away from that cycle. It's that gang culture. If they have that lifestyle, but they don't carry a knife they're going to feel like that makes them more vulnerable.’’
Commenting on how young people are groomed into becoming involved with gangs and drugs, Kate said: “I feel like it's happening from other children. It's people doing it to people of a similar age. It's not some big scary man doing it, it's your mate who you trust and love.’
“Things need to change, not just at a city level. When the Government are so occupied by Brexit it's easy to neglect children up and down the country who are stabbing each other to death. People are okay to scream and say how terrible young people are, but they don't want to look at what's actually going on.’’
Shona said she thinks a problem is the perception that everyone is carrying knives.
“Groups might not always be carrying knives, but because people outside of the group think they are, they carry them. But why carry them if you're not planning to use them?’’
Young people were also asked for their ideas on possible solutions that could help to reduce knife crime in Sheffield. Among the suggestions offered in the consultation were tactics South Yorkshire Police could use such as awareness campaigns around the consequences of carrying knives and what numbers should be used to report a crime.
Participants also said they would like to see a visible police presence in their schools and communities.
In addition, many of those taking part said they believed there was more Sheffield's schools could be doing to educate pupils about the dangers surrounding knife crime. Participants said they believed young people having ‘more places to go’ like youth clubs, would be of benefit to those on the periphery of becoming involved with knife crime.
They said they would also like to see self-defence, as well as first aid and how to treat knife wounds.
Challenging racism was also seen to be a priority in the fight against knife crime in the city.