The Lives not Knives event was held at Hertfordshire University on Tuesday 16 July, and is the latest in a series of events planned to make young people in the county aware of the terrible consequences of getting involved with gangs and violent crime.
The evening began with a talk by Mr Martin Griffiths, trauma surgeon from St Barts Hospital and Violence Reduction Chief for London, who spoke about the traumatic injuries he had seen first-hand.
Chief Insp Steve O’Keefe, Sergeant Rachel Brown, PCC David Lloyd, Detective Insp Anna Borella, Chief Constable Charlie Hall
Legal expert Peter Shaw QC then discussed how joint enterprise can mean that by being present during a violent crime you can be convicted even if you took no part in the crime, and explained the sentences handed out in murder cases.
Ex-gang member Gavin McKenna from Reach Every Generation spoke about his previous gang affiliation and how he now works with young people providing training and coaching.
The evening was brought to a powerful and poignant close by Tracey and Brooke Hanson from The Josh Hanson Trust. Tracey’s son, Josh, was murdered in an unprovoked knife attack in 2015. Tracey recounted the traumatic experience of losing a child to knife crime and the devastating effect that this has had on her family.
The event was also attended by Chief Constable for Hertfordshire, Charlie Hall, and Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd, who provided extra funding to grow the Constabulary’s response to gang and violent crime.
Detective Insp Anna Borella, Sergeant Helen Croughton, Brooke Hanson, Gavin McKenna, Tracy Hanson, PC Claire Jones, PS Pete Kendall and PCSO Lindsay Cunningham.
After the event refreshments were provided thanks to Broxbourne Borough Council and Herts Sports Partnership, YC Herts and Fearless were there to offer a variety of positive activities for the young people to engage with and to empower them to make change.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, David Lloyd said: “We know that intervening early and preventing people from entering the criminal justice system is key to reducing demand and achieving better outcomes for individuals and families.
“Knife crime is relatively low compared to neighbouring areas, but it is not something that our communities are immune too. It is an area that we have to tackle and I have made it a priority for the constabulary this year.
Brooke Hanson and Tracy Hanson who lost family members to knife crime
“Through additional investment, a larger team of police officers are being deployed to work in schools and with young people to address serious violence. Each district and borough will have at least one named police officer to provide early intervention work.”
Sergeant Helen Croughton from the Gangs and Schools team said: “These events inform young people about the reality of knife crime and gang related violence, which can often be conveyed as glamorous. By hearing first-hand accounts of how devastating the lifestyle has been to other people’s lives, the young people attending are shown the reality rather than the facade. The speakers all have first-hand experience of knife crime or gang violence which really has an impact on young people and encourages them to make positive choices and recognise dangerous situations and friendships.
“Once again I would like to thank every speaker who attended and shared their story, Hertfordshire University and our partner agencies who made this event possible. We would also like to thank the young people who attended the event. We will continue to work with those at risk of gang affiliation and associated criminality to help them achieve positive change.”
Anyone who is concerned about gang or knife crime can call the Hertfordshire Constabulary non-emergency number 101. Young people who need help and advice about these issues can visit: www.herts.police.uk/cyp.