A conference showcasing Cheshire Constabulary’s partnership approach to tackling knife crime has been hailed as ‘inspirational’.
Around 150 people attended the Tackling Weapons Conference at Chester Cathedral on Thursday 21 November.
They learnt about ongoing work to make Cheshire a county where no-one wants to, or feels that they need to, carry a weapon.
Visitors also found out about the significant strides that have been made as the force and its partner agencies work together in a bid to make Cheshire knife crime free.
Sarah Heath, Cheshire Constabulary’s superintendent for tackling weapons and reducing serious harm, said: “The conference was inspirational. There were a range of captivating speakers detailing the considerable ongoing efforts to combat knife crime in the county, and I am pleased to say that we had a fantastic turnout.
“We have a structured approach to tackling knife crime that involves the whole community, as it is a societal problem that the police can’t solve on our own. Every single one of us has a part to play.
“I am pleased to say that we have one of the lowest rates of knife crime in England and Cheshire is one of the few counties in England and Wales that has seen a reduction in the number of knife related offences committed in recent times.
“Our message to young people is that Cheshire is a safe place to live and there is no need for you to carry a weapon to protect yourself. And if you do carry a knife you are far more likely to end up getting seriously injured, or even killed.
“We have found that fear and fashion are the two main reasons that young people carry weapons and that most instances of knife crime occur during the after school period.
“We work alongside various partner agencies – including local authorities, education providers, health authorities, third sector organisations, youth representatives and community groups – to educate young people of the dangers and futility of carrying weapons, steer them away from criminality and offer them attractive alternative ways to spend their time.
“Our partnership approach to combating the complex issues associated with knife crime and habitual weapon carrying in Cheshire is working.
“We will empower the community even further to build on this success and make the county an even safer place to live, work and visit.”
Supt Heath, pictured above, was one of the speakers at the event. The others were:
David Keane, police and crime commissioner for Cheshire
Cheshire Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable Matt Burton
Louis Bamber, founder of the Live Your Life Drop The Knife community group
Nic Martin and Paul Cooper, representatives of a Queensbury Alternative
Provision intervention programme helping to deter and prevent young people from getting involved in knife crime
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
Liam McGiveron, a representative of the new KnifeSavers project that provides members of the public with life-saving bleeding control packs
Rob Jackson, a clinician at Royal Liverpool University Hospital’s accident and emergency department who deals with knife-related injuries
Mr Keane, pictured below, said: “The conference represented an ideal opportunity for the people of Cheshire to find out about the considerable amount of work being done by the police and partner agencies to eradicate knife crime in our communities.
“The range of speakers covered all aspects of knife crime and the devastating effects it has on communities.
“The recent killings of 18-year-old Eddie O’Rourke in Runcorn and pub landlord Christian Thornton in Widnes represent ultimate examples of why people shouldn’t carry knives.
“They can turn a minor incident into something far more serious that destroys the lives of everyone involved.
“The family of Eddie, who was killed last September as a result of a knife being carried and used outside a Runcorn club, attended the conference.
“It was harrowing for everyone else who attended to hear of the impacts that Eddie’s murder has had on his family and whole Runcorn community.
“We all have to work together to ensure that no other lives are tragically lost as a result of knife crime.”
At the end of the conference a minute’s silence, pictured below, was held in commemoration of all those who have died due to knife crime.
It was held in front of the Knife Angel that will be situated outside the cathedral until Thursday 28 November.
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 national monument against aggression is a symbol of both loss and hope for the future.
Supt Heath added: “I would like to thank Chester Cathedral for allowing us to hold the conference there.
“With the national Knife Angel monument currently located at the cathedral, it was the ideal place to hold the event.
“I would also like to thank all those who attended the conference. It was great to such a high level of support for our efforts to make Cheshire knife crime free from organisations and residents across the county.
“There needs to be a total intolerance for the carrying of weapons to achieve that goal.
“If you know someone who carries a weapon then reporting it to the police could be enough to save a life.”
To report any type of crime involving weapons call Cheshire Constabulary on 101, or 999 in an emergency.