Knife crime has decreased slightly in South Yorkshire despite the rest of the country seeing a 7% increase, according to the latest Office of National Statistics crime figures.
The December 2019 stats show a decrease of 2% when compared to figures from 2018. However, there has still been a huge 97% increase since 2011 in blade related offences. Despite knife crime being a main concern in the area, most violence in South Yorkshire is in fact committed without a weapon.
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner said: “We have to be very cautious of taking one year of figures and drawing a lot of conclusions from that.”
There has been a small drop of 21 recorded offences, with assault with injury still being a leading charge. Even with the promising figures for South Yorkshire, England and Wales is now seeing the highest reports of knife crime on record.
SYP has intervention programs in place that can occur at different stages, whether it before someone has turned to knife crime or as an attempt to draw them away from gangs and violence. There is support available regarding things such as mental health, employment, education, and substance abuse.
Opportunities for people to improve their lifestyle are referred to as teachable moments. They often happen in custody suites or hospital when the individual is starting to reflect after a life-changing situation has occurred.
“Prevention is always better than enforcement. You have to enforce if crimes are committed but you have to stop being people drawn into it in the first place.”Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner
Rachel Staniforth, Head of the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit, explained that there is a vast range of schemes going on in the area to try and tackle issues such as knife crime.
“There is a whole wealth of work happening and it might be that there isn’t any one thing that is leading to this reduction in knife crime and it is more of a combination of things.” She said.
Recently SYVRU launched a scheme called Mentors in Violence Prevention. It is a leadership program ran in schools where select pupils are trained in emphasising healthy norms with their classmates. This is shown to make young people more resilient against the temptation of getting into knife related crimes. The first event was held remotely on 28 May with six schools being the first take part in the scheme
Dr Billings said: “I went up to Glasgow to see what they do with the Violence Reduction Unit there and peer mentors is something that has been very successful, and they have been doing it for more than ten years now.”
He explained that over the past few months he has seen a drastic change in crime because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Knife crime associated with gangs and drugs has dropped off a cliff since we went into lockdown. But the gangs are still there. The drugs are still there. We expect they will start to come back when we return to normality.” Dr Billings said.
Anthony Olaseinde, an anti-knife crime campaigner and founder of the charity, Always an Alternative, hosts workshops to try and draw young people away from violent crime. He began supporting vulnerable people over three years ago when he began the movement of #KeepSheffieldStainless.
“There are so many factors in why a person might carry a knife. Me popping up to them for two seconds saying don’t carry a knife isn’t going to make much of a difference. They might be desensitised to violence because of their home life. I know more about them personally before I can help them understand.”Anthony Olaseinde
He believes that consistent support for young people who may be getting in dangerous and unhealthy situations is the best way to create change and create more of a decrease.
Anthony has done various sessions in schools but also in pupil referral units and homeless housing accommodations. One-to-one sessions are available for those who are at more of a high risk. Always an Alternative also has a free weapon collection and disposal service for in and around Sheffield.
He is also currently writing a fiction book called One Knife Many Lives which highlights many of the issues he has dedicated his work to.
“You could be any one of those people in the book just by a mistake. You can see yourself within the characters as it reflects real life.”