Meet the Yorkshire barber who is leading the fight against knife crime

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A North Yorkshire barber is leading the fight against knife crime and encouraging young people to hand in weapons and talk about their experiences without any questions asked.

Josh Westwood, owner of Westwood's Barbershop and Social, located in The Arcade, has become one of the first in the country to sign up to the charitable organisation "Barbers Against Blades".

Josh Westwood, owner of Westwood's Barbershop and Social, located in The Arcade, has become one of the first in the country to sign up to the charitable organisation "Barbers Against Blades".

Josh Westwood, owner of Westwood's Barbershop and Social, located in The Arcade, has become one of the first in the country to sign up to the charitable organisation "Barbers Against Blades".

The charity aims to help the fight against knife crime in the UK by using focal businesses in the community to encourage chat and awareness about knife crime.

Mr Westwood, 29, said: "We engage in conversation with people of all ages on a daily basis and have the ability to raise topics that others may not feel comfortable speaking about.

"The barbershop is a relaxed, informal atmosphere where people can escape their troubles in the outside world. Also, a person’s barber is often one of the most trusted people they know, and many feel more comfortable confiding in their barber their GP.

"We are not trying to lecture or get too involved with people’s personal lives, but if we can make them aware of the issues and provide a non-judgemental environment for them to ask questions then that should be a start."

Josh Westwood, owner of Westwood's Barbershop and Social, located in The Arcade, has become one of the first in the country to sign up to the charitable organisation "Barbers Against Blades".

Josh Westwood, owner of Westwood's Barbershop and Social, located in The Arcade, has become one of the first in the country to sign up to the charitable organisation "Barbers Against Blades".

The Yorkshire Post previously revealed how there has been a 94 per cent increase across Yorkshire in the number of offences involving a knife compared to figures from 2011.

Read more: The impact of knife crime on the streets of Yorkshire
Across Yorkshire and the Humber, there were 4,597 serious offences involving a knife in the 12 months to December 2018.

There were also 21 homicides and 34 attempted murders - all involving knives.

Mr Westwood said: "We are all very alarmed at the rate of knife crime in the UK, especially since the number of incidents seems to be increasing at a rapid rate.

Josh Westwood, owner of Westwood's Barbershop and Social, located in The Arcade, has become one of the first in the country to sign up to the charitable organisation "Barbers Against Blades".

Josh Westwood, owner of Westwood's Barbershop and Social, located in The Arcade, has become one of the first in the country to sign up to the charitable organisation "Barbers Against Blades".

"Ripon is not exactly a hot-spot for knife crime like other towns and cities, but it does have a minority of young people who have lost their way and are at risk of being involved.

"What many of them don’t realise is that they could be convicted of a crime in the event of being present at an attack, even if they were not the one holding the knife.

"Even being caught carrying a blade for self defence is enough to get you a conviction, often leading to problems getting a job, getting into college/university and travelling abroad in the future."

Read more: Yorkshire's victims of knife crime
As a member of Barbers Against Blades, Mr Westwood is happy for anyone to hand in a blade to the shop completely anonymously, but there will be certain conditions.

Mr Westwood said: "I should make it very clear though that we are certainly not trying to replace or bypass the police in any way, and any blades we receive will be handed straight to them."

Growing up in the Yorkshire Dales, knife crime has "never been an issue" for Mr Westwood, but he said he "feels great sadness" at how the problem is spreading nationally.

"I don't want to stand by and do nothing while we see it creeping into our more rural areas and affecting even more people," Mr Westwood said.

"If I can help influence and educate our young people before any problems set in then I’ll feel much happier.

"Every town has its youngsters who regularly find themselves on the wrong side of the law and Ripon is no different, but we have no serious problems as yet with regard to knives. Instead of waiting for the problem to arrive and escalate we should prevent it before it even gets going. Surely that’s better than trying to solve an established problem like we have in our major cities?"