Government campaign ‘integral’ to drop in knife possession

Scottish Government knife campaign poster

By Grant Wright

A government campaign aimed to tackle knife crime in Scotland has achieved considerable success giving hope to those who believe that community support is a more viable answer than blanket legislation.  The initiative entitled ‘No Knives, Better Lives’ was piloted last year in the region of Inverclyde and earlier this year was extended to other areas of Scotland such as Edinburgh, Glasgow Renfrewshire, West Dumbartonshire and Clackmannanshire.

A report recently released showed that in Inverclyde there were 142 cases of knife possession in the period between February 2008 to May 2009, but following the introduction of the scheme in June this fell to 93 cases between June 2009 to September 2010; a remarkable 35% reduction in spite of increased stop and searches in the area.  Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Secretary, has praised this report calling it a ‘real achievement’.  He has been involved in the initiative from it’s inception, taking an active part in many of the community activities related to the campaign.

The success in Inverclyde has been put down to the structural schemes in high schools involving workshops which encouraged young people to take an active part in discussing knife crime, and talks from those who have seen the horror of it first-hand such as ex-offenders, medics and victims.  Sobering posters and cinema adverts combined with two educational films, ensured that 75% of children in Inverclyde have now heard of the initiative.

Chf Insp Graeme MacDiarmid of Strathclyde Police, Inverclyde’s area commander, commented that the campaign had played an ‘integral part’ in tackling knife crime and added that ‘never before have police officers in Inverclyde carried out so many searches for weapons, yet at the same time found so few’

Edinburgh has seen the initiative rolled out over the Summer this year, with most efforts focused in the north of the city where a third of all knife-related incidents in the capital occurred.  It kicked of with a five-aside football tournament attended by Kenny MacAskill in Montgomery Park.  Activities put in place to to entertain and distract the youth included gala days and music events, whilst the Granton Youth Project helped develop a play relating to knife crime which was then shown at the Edinburgh Festival.  Prior to the campaign’s launch in Edinburgh, knife crime was already decreasing in the capital and has continued to do so across Lothian and the Borders according to recent reports.  In nearly half of all incidents the victim knew the offender and alcohol and drug misuse were prominent factors.

Councillor Paul Eddie, Community Safety Leader at the City of Edinburgh Council said: “It is important to reassure the wider community that the partnership is doing everything it can to educate young people, so that knife crime can be reduced and that these crimes can become a problem of the past.”

“I am sure this new and exciting initiative will teach young people, that carrying a knife can have a devastating affect on their future.”

This initiative which involves a variety of communities and youth projects highlights a shift towards the integration of regional projects leading to an approach unique to each area.  This is in contrast a proposed piece of legislation which was rejected in June, which would require mandatory six-month jail terms for anyone caught carrying a knife.  Although it was defeated by only a narrow margin, schemes introduced since have been a far cry from blanket legislation.

Although the initiative is still in it’s early stages in other regions, there is evidently still a lot of work to be done, as on the day of these reports a 21 year old man was stabbed in he east of Glasgow.  Supporters of the campaign remain optimistic.