School plays and young doctors - how Norfolk police hope to tackle knife crime rise
- Credit: Keith Whitmore
Police are turning their attention to schools to tackle the huge rise in knife crime in Norfolk and spread the word about the dangers.
'We can't keep overloading the courts and investigation centres. We have to prevent bad things happening in the first place.'
That is the philosophy underpinning Norfolk police and crime commissioner Lorne Green's strategy in the fight against surging knife crime in the county.
As reported yesterday, there have 316 knife crimes in Norfolk in the last year - a figure which has more than trebled in three years.
Knife amnesty bins have been introduced in other parts of the country, including Suffolk, but Norfolk has not followed suit.
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Instead Mr Green wants the police to focus on prevention.
As part of that, more than 100 young people in Norfolk have been taught about the dangers of knives by young medics thanks to a charity called StreetDoctors.
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The project was rolled-out in Norfolk in March this year after getting funding from Mr Green's office.
Those aged 10 to 19 make up the largest proportion of arrests for knife crime in Norfolk.
And the young people from Norwich and Great Yarmouth, who took part in the first StreetDoctors training sessions, were taught how to save lives if someone is stabbed. It aims to change attitudes towards violence by showing the consequences of carrying knives.
One youngster who took part said: 'The session was good, really enjoyed it, nice people and found out how to help a person when he is stabbed.'
'It made me realise the dangers of carrying a knife,' another said.
Mr Green said he was concerned some young people seem to have become desensitised towards violence.
'It's crucial we educate our young people about the dangers of knife crime – whether as a victim or an offender,' he said.
Chief Inspector Nathan Clark said: 'A lot of young people we deal with simply don't understand the serious consequences of their actions and I believe the input from doctors will help them face the realities that knives can take lives.
'The project is a great opportunity for us to tackle knife crime which can have devastating, even fatal consequences.
'Clearly we aim to tackle this through enforcement, arresting and prosecuting people found in possession of knives and those who use them.
'However, enforcement alone will not solve this and education and awareness is also key.'
The StreetDoctors charity was launched in 2008 by two medical students.
•County Lines - the play
Police will take the message about the dangers of knife crime to thousands of schoolchildren in Norfolk this year.
It comes as a top police officer today warns of drug gangs coming into the county to exploit children.
To tackle the menace, police are launching a campaign in schools to educate children about the dangers of gangs and knife crime.
A play will be performed for Year 8 children in all Norfolk schools this year called County Lines.
County Lines is the term given to gangs bringing drugs to places like Norfolk from London.
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Paul Sanford said: 'Some people are coming in to the county to exploit children - it is interlinked with sexual exploitation, with trafficking, with missing children.
'Our goal is to prevent young people getting trapped in a cycle.
'It is about making children more resilient. County lines will be threat that will be with us for some time to come.'
He said the play which will be shown in the first schools in October carries 'many messages about consequences of carrying knifes'.
There has been a surge in the number of blades found in schools in Norfolk in the last year.
In 2012/13 there were four incidents of people having a blade on a school premises. By last year it was 20.
A national campaign called Op Spectre has been supported in Norfolk by on-going work in schools in King's Lynn, Norwich and Great Yarmouth to educate young people about knife crime and the consequences carrying a knife can have.
Leaflets and posters will also be distributed across communities, libraries and schools.
•Find out more at http://streetdoctors.org/get-involved/