A campaign that highlights the dangers of carrying guns and knives has reached more than 20,000 youths in a year across South Yorkshire.
Guns and Knives Take Lives is a South Yorkshire Police initiative aimed at 11 to 18-year-olds and has reached 20,270 people in 143 sessions since it was relaunched last May.
Chief Officer of the Special Constabulary Stephen Merrett, who leads the project, said: “The response we have got from young people is really positive.
“The presentation is about real life and features case studies from people affected by gun and knife crime, you can see how engaged they are.”
He said it is about getting the message across early and giving young people the chance to think about the consequences of their actions.
The initiative talks through examples of South Yorkshire Police’s Operation Sceptre and the knife surrender initiative, as well as how police respond to gun and knife crime incidents.
Operation Sceptre aims to reduce the number of families affected by knife crime across the country and was set up in July 2015.
The launch was timed to coincide with new legislation where those found to be carrying a knife for the second time will face a mandatory custodial sentence.
Mr Merrett joined the British Army when he was 16 and served for 20 years.
He talks to youths about his experiences in the army and the devastating impact weapons can have on people’s lives.
He said: “I talk to them about the reality of being around weapons and the very harsh consequences.”
Supt Una Jennings, force lead for Armed Criminality said: “It is a sad fact that more and more young people are choosing to carry dangerous weapons, which is simply unacceptable.
“We need to raise vital awareness of the risks of carrying guns and knives.
“We deliver an impactive and emotional presentation and the fatal consequences should not be forgotten or undermined.”
She added that school feedback has been very positive.
Guns and Knives Takes Lives plans to work with more colleges and schools across South Yorkshire.