Do not carry knives - police urge teenagers in the region in wake of spike in violence
- Credit: Archant
Tomorrow marks ten years to the day since a Norwich security guard was stabbed to death by a drug-dealing teenager outside Chapelfield.
And today, with knife-wielding drug gangs from London targeting this region, police are warning local teenagers not to carry blades.
Officers are on the offensive amid concerns young people may carry a knife for self-defence, leading to tragic consequences.
Security guard Paul Cavanagh was murdered just for doing his job on December 18, 2006 as he apprehended drug dealer David Watson outside the HMV store in Chapelfield.
Watson, 19 at the time, feared police would find £10,000 of crack cocaine he brought from Hackney to sell on the streets of Norwich and fatally stabbed Mr Cavanagh - who had challenged him over a stolen CD.
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And after a spate of recent stabbings across the county were linked to drug gangs infiltrating Norfolk from London, police are redoubling their efforts to ensure young people do not feel pressured to arm themselves.
'Norfolk as a county remains safe,' said Supt Dave Buckley, head of community safety at Norfolk Police. 'In terms of young people in Norfolk carrying knives it is not common place.
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'When people look at social media and the news, and read about an incident perhaps in Norwich city involving teenagers and knives, they should not then begin carrying knives to protect themselves.
'Then we will have a problem.'
One family who have felt the keen pain of knife violence is the Barrett's. Connor Barrett was the victim of a 'joint attack' by 15-year-old Ayomindy Bile and Jesse Quaye, 18, at a 21st birthday party in Hemsby on May 10, 2014. His killers were jailed to a total of 30 years in January 2015.
Connor's dad Lee Barrett said the family has been given a 'life sentence'.
'I think it needs to be drilled into young people from a very early age that this is not okay,' he said. 'My whole family is carrying a life sentence, and it kills me every day. 'I just feel so sorry for the families involved in these incidents because I know exactly what they are going through. I know the pain they are feeling. 'I can only ask people to think twice before they think about carrying a knife. It destroys families and it destroys people's lives.'
After six violent incidents involving knives linked to the drug trade in two weeks, police and partner agencies have been focused on tackling the 'scourge' of drugs in the region under Operation Gravity.
Supt Buckley believes now is the opportunity 'to make sure knife carrying in Norfolk does not become normalised.' 'This operation has a problem with knives but has given us a lever to go out and make sure it is not the done thing,' he said.
Officers have always been building links with schools and giving knife prevention advice, but Operation Gravity has now become a 'force priority'.
'When you see the consequences of knife attacks, young people often do not realise the sheer impact of knife slashing and how easily people can be killed,' said Supt Buckley.
'Incidents where people have been injured or where people have died - the impact of that is significant in delivering the message to our audience.'
He added valid reasons for teenagers carrying knives were 'minimal', and 'there will be an assumption it is being carried for protection or causing someone injury or harm.'
'What the law says is you cannot possess an offensive weapon. That is not just knives - if you have a screwdriver or a sharpened coin, there is no reason for you to have it and you will be arrested.
'Generally young people should not be carrying knives around. It is not a good idea. It opens up an entirely different scenario around a potential confrontation.
'This is about making the county as hostile to controlled drugs as possible, while accepting that is a big challenge.'
Anyone with information regarding people carrying knives or drugs in their area should contact Norfolk Police on non-emergency number 101, or 999 in an emergency.
Alternatively, information can be left anonymously with Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Have the confidence to challenge your peers
The horrifying impact of knives in a classroom was bourne out when 61-year-old teacher Ann Maguire was stabbed to death in front of her aghast students on April 28, 2014.
It is a case used by Norfolk Police as a reminder of the deadly effects of blades as they tour around local assemblies with their Safer Schools programme.
Mrs Maguire's killer Will Cornick was 15 at the time and was jailed for life with a minimum of 20 years at Leeds Crown Court on 3 November 2014.
Classmates expressed their shock at the events that had unfolded at Corpus Christi Catholic Collage that day, but Cornick had already given away warnings in Facebook messages to friends of what he planned to do.
Supt Dave Buckley said it is crucial teenagers feel able to challenge their peers if they suspect them of carrying knives, and can approach teachers or the police to avert a similar incident.
'With the Safer Schools programme officers are working in schools to build trust with young people, and also working on knife awareness of where knives have been used in a school context,' he said.
'We say to the vast majority that this happens only among a minority, but has devastating consequences.
'In terms of the cultural dynamic we want young people to discuss it and get a culture change that it is totally unacceptable to carry knives.
'If young people themselves will actively challenge it that will have a bigger impact than anything else.'
Zero tolerance for knives in Norfolk
As six serious violent incidents involving knives, including four stabbings with multiple injuries, have been linked to drug networks in the last two weeks, Norfolk Police launched Operation Gravity.
Houses have been forcibly closed, thousands of pounds worth of cash and drugs seized, and 22 arrests made in the last three weeks.
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable of Norfolk Police Mike Fawcett said: 'This is something we cannot and do not tolerate.
'We will come down hard on anyone found carrying a knife in public. It is not a reasonable excuse to carry a knife in self-defence – it is illegal.
'These are young people selling drugs in an area they don't know, to people they don't know, and it is protection for them.
'If you come to Norfolk carrying a knife or dealing drugs we will come for you and use every element of the law. We will not accept it.'