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A Tackling Weapons Conference will be held at Chester Cathedral next week as part of ongoing efforts to make Cheshire knife crime free.
Held from 10am to noon on Thursday 21 November, the aim of the event is to showcase Cheshire Constabulary’s partnership approach to tackling knife crime, the habitual carrying of weapons and serious violence across the county.
There will be a range of speakers from the force and its partner agencies.
Speakers will include Cheshire Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable Matt Burton; Sarah Heath, the force’s superintendent for tackling weapons and reducing serious harm; David Keane, police and crime commissioner for Cheshire; Louis Bamber, founder of the Live Your Life Drop The Knife community group; Nic Martin and Paul Cooper, representatives of a Queensbury AP intervention programme helping to deter and prevent young people from getting involved in knife crime; and Debra Green OBE, the national director and founder of the Redeeming Our Communities (ROC) charity that facilitates Community Conversation events to identify opportunities to make our towns and cities safer places to live.
Representatives of the new KnifeSavers project that provides members of the public with life-saving bleeding control packs will also speak at the event, while Rob Jackson, a clinician at Royal Liverpool University Hospital’s accident and emergency department, will explain the work he does in schools to steer young people away from knife crime.
With a Knife Angel overlooking them, speakers will reveal details of ongoing work to make Cheshire a county where no-one wants to, or feels that they need to, carry a weapon.
Supt Heath said: “With the national Knife Angel monument currently located at Cheshire Cathedral, what better place to hold our Tackling Weapons Conference?
“Made from more than 100,000 surrendered knives and weapons, with some carrying the names of victims of knife crime inscribed by their loved ones, the monument is a symbol of both loss and hope for the future.
“Although we have one of the lowest rates of knife crime in England, Cheshire is no stranger to the devastating consequences the criminal use of weapons can have for victims, offenders and their families and friends.
“Last September 18-year-old man Eddie O’Rourke died as a result of a knife being carried and used outside a Runcorn club.
“His killing, and the subsequent murder and manslaughter convictions of the two teenagers responsible, is the ultimate example of why people shouldn’t carry weapons.
“The police, local authorities, education providers, health authorities, third sector organisations, youth representatives and community members in Cheshire have formed a structured approach to collectively address the complex issues associated with knife crime and habitual weapon carrying.
“It involves us all working together to tackle the issues through education, awareness and action in a bid to make Cheshire an even safer place to live, work and visit.
“Knife crime is a societal problem that cannot be solved without the support of the whole society.
“There needs to be a total intolerance for the carrying of weapons throughout our society, and I am pleased to say that the force and our partner agencies have had fantastic support from the people of Cheshire for our collaborative work in tackling knife crime.
“This has led to short-term success in reducing knife related incidents, but there are also longer-term strategies to empower communities and support young people through education and intervention.
“This approach, which will be discussed at the upcoming Tackling Weapons Conference, will now be developed further as we endeavour to make Cheshire a county where no-one feels a need to carry a knife.”
Mr Keane, PCC for Cheshire, added: “Carrying a knife is a very serious crime. It doesn’t make you safer and it can turn a minor incident into something more serious.
“We’ve seen the devastating effects knife crime can have on our communities. The recent killings of 18-year-old Eddie O’Rourke in Runcorn and pub landlord Christian Thornton in Widnes are just two examples of why people shouldn’t carry knives.
“The Tackling Weapons Conference will provide a great opportunity to bring together partners from across Cheshire who all have a desire to eradicate knife crime in our communities.”
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in Cheshire decreased between June 2019 and June 2018.
This is in stark contrast to the seven per cent rise in such offences seen nationally over that period.
Supt Heath said: “Whilst the national picture shows a worrying trend of knife crime continuing to rise, Cheshire is just one of seven forces nationally to have seen a decrease in the number of recorded knife and sharp instrument offences.
“Out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, our knife crime figures are the ninth lowest and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the number of weapons carried and used in Cheshire is further reduced until we achieve our goal of being knife crime free across the county.
“Violence is preventable, not inevitable, and we are utilising deterrence strategies to steer people away from this type of criminality and interventions to address the causes.
“We adopt a prepare, protect, pursue and prevent approach to tackling crimes involving weapons.
“As part of this we would like to remind everyone that if you are found carrying a knife in public, without a reasonable excuse, you will face a prison sentence.
“We also ask retailers to have robust controls on the sale of blades, such as kitchen knives. It is illegal to sell a knife to anyone under the age of 18 and we are also now working with distribution centres to intercept prohibited weapons that are purchased online and prevent them from being a threat to our communities.”
Family and friends also have a vital role to play. If you know someone who carries a weapon then reporting it to the police could be enough to save a life.
Supt Heath said: “We all have a responsibility to help young people fulfil their potential and not carry or use weapons.
“To achieve our goal of making Cheshire knife crime free we need the public’s continued help and support.”
To find out more about Cheshire’s partnership approach to tackling knife crime you can book your place online https://bit.ly/2q2NiHJ, or just come along on the day.
To report any type of crime involving weapons call Cheshire Constabulary on 101, or 999 in an emergency.
Anyone who knows someone that carries a knife can report it to Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Designed by Alfie Bradley, the 8.2-metre high Knife Angel, which weighs 3.5 tonnes, will be at Chester Cathedral in Abbey Square in the city centre until Thursday 28 November.