Hundreds of students were given the opportunity to learn about the impact and risks of knife crime as part of the second ‘Peace Week’ education scheme organised by police.
Officers and staff from the Watford Community Safety Unit arranged for a number of guest speakers to deliver presentations to Year 7 and 8 students at both the Reach Free School in Rickmansworth and Queens’ School in Bushey.
During the week, which ran from July 1 to 5, youth violence intervention organisation The Safety Box ran interactive sessions with the 11 to 13-year-olds during the school day.
These are designed to build self-esteem, alter negative behaviour and provide children with the tools needed to avoid high-risk conflict.
A total of 240 Reach Free students and 280 Queens’ students attended the workshops.
Two Youth Crime Police Community Support Officers were also at both schools throughout the week, building on their rapport with the youngsters.
Due to a jointly funded initiative between police and Chessbrook Education Support Centre (ESC) in Watford, PCSO Daisy Jenkins and PCSO Keith Sayers have been working with both primary and secondary schools across the town, including Chessbrook ESC, since January this year.
They have been forging relationships with staff and pupils to ensure that young people who are most at risk of being drawn into crime are given extra support and guidance as well as the opportunity to try positive diversionary activities.
During the most recent Peace Week, the PCSOs ran review sessions for the students which involved consolidation of key messages they had learned.
They were asked to design anti-knife crime posters for a competition, the winner of which will be displayed in the Intu centre in time for Operation Sceptre – the national knife amnesty – in September.
They also completed a post-it notes ‘tree’ to record their thoughts and feelings on knife-crime after The Safety Box’s input. At the end of the day, they all attended a celebration assembly aimed to help them aspire to positive futures and utilise their personal skills and strengths.
All staff at Reach Free attended a training session run by The Safety Box, while Queens’ School staff attended the sessions alongside the students.
At two separate evening events, around 150 parents and professionals listened to presentations from a number of speakers including Tracy Hanson from the Josh Hanson Trust. Tracy lost her 21-year-old son Josh in October 2015 after he was stabbed in an unprovoked attack in a west London nightclub.
Also sharing their stories during the evening session were an ex-gang member targeted due to his lack of cultural and safety awareness, and a man who grew up associating with gang members but managed to make a life for himself after attending college away from his hometown.
Attendees were also provided with information about diversionary activities that could potentially support them and their wider family.
Students were also gifted drawstring bags, bottles and pens displaying the national campaign message ‘Lives Not Knives’.
Anthony Smith, deputy head at The Reach Free School, said: “The joined up approach that has been bought about through our work with the PCSOs and the Police this year culminating in ‘Peace Week’ has empowered our staff, pupils and parents to keep everyone safe in the community.
“We invited a number of local schools to our parents’ event and acknowledge that it is going to take the whole community to tackle these issues together. We hope that we can play an active role in supporting these efforts further and will always strive to do what we can to educate our pupils to remain safe in the community.”
Jonathan Morrell, head teacher at The Queens’ School, said: “These were inspiring workshops delivered with energy and enthusiasm followed by a powerful and passionate celebratory assembly. It was a fantastic and hard-hitting learning opportunity.”
Nathaniel Peat, CEO at The Safety Box, said: “The Peace Week was a powerful and fun experience with all the pupils we helped to teach, safeguarding against CCE, drugs, gangs, and knife crime.
“The young people and teaching staff thoroughly enjoyed the program and we hope that more schools will be proactive in early intervention methodologies which help to steer youth away from crime.”
The Peace Week scheme is part of the wider work being done in Watford to tackle youth crime head on.
There are plans for the week of action to be held in further schools, with the next event scheduled for the autumn term. It is hoped a similar provision can be delivered in primary schools in the near future.
Officers work closely with partners and attend regular multi-agency meetings in order to share intelligence around those young people who present the highest risk, to ensure that positive intervention can be targeted at the earliest opportunity.
Further to this, every 24 hours patrol plans detailing hotspots for disruption are briefed out to officers, so they are aware of the locations they need to target while out and about.
Since July 2018, a total of 1,443 people under the age of 25 were stopped and searched across Watford, Three Rivers and Hertsmere*. Only 43 of those had a weapon – some of which were knives – seized from them.
For more information, you can visit the Home Office’s website at gov.uk/crime-justice-and-law/knife-gun-and-gang-crime
Or Crimestoppers’ Fearless website, visit fearless.org/en