CHILDREN as young as 10 are carrying knives on the streets of Leeds, police have warned, as a week-long crime-fighting initiative comes to an end.
Community campaigners have said their efforts to battle knife crime will continue at full pace amid rising levels of violence both locally and nationally.
Events were held across the city this weekend to try to discourage young people from carrying weapons as part of a nationwide awareness week, including an information day at the Reginald Centre in Chapeltown.
One of the organisers, PC Mark Rothery, the ward manager for Chapeltown, said sometimes children were carrying a knife not because they wanted to harm others but in a misguided attempt to protect themselves.
He said: “I would say the ages are probably getting younger now, of people carrying knives.
“They might not be carrying it to use it but they might be scared of something.
“They might be getting bullied, or something like that. It is getting younger to be honest with you, from ages 10 plus.”
Further events are planned in conjunction with the city’s schools - including primary schools – in the coming months in an effort to educate children about the dangers they place themselves in if they carry a blade.
A mother whose son was stabbed to death, a woman who received death threats after her partner was jailed for killing someone and a young man stabbed, run over and then stabbed another seven times - these are the harrowing real-life stories about the implications of knife crime being told across Leeds in attempts to get people to turn away from carrying weapons.
Leeds-based project Life Experience combines real testimonies with spoken-word performances in its work with community groups and schools.
Director Phil Pearce said: “These are the bits you don’t usually see when you talk about knife crime.”
Life Experience was one of the groups involved in the community event in Chapeltown on Saturday, as part of the nationwide Operation Sceptre knife crime crackdown.
Speakers included Sarah Lloyd, whose 17-year-old son Kieran Butterworth was murdered during a knife attack in Harehills in 2013.
She now campaigns under the banner ‘Leeds Lives Not Knives’.
Mr Pearce said: “More people are carrying knives for protection - from people carrying knives.
“It is that vicious circle. If nobody is carrying a knife, nobody needs a knife.”
PC Rothery said powerful personal accounts helped to get people talking about knife crime.
“We never talk about these serious issues, we just push them aside,” he said.
“If you know someone who is carrying a knife, just talk about it, whether it is to the police, to a family member or schools.”
Other knife crime-themed events were held across Leeds to mark the culmination of the national knife amnesty and awareness week.
In one event, in Guiseley on Saturday, police offered virtual-reality tours of police cells and Leeds Prison, to show people what might happen to those who carried weapons.