Leeds Lives Not Knives message taken into community

The community in Harehills knows only to well the consequences of young people carrying knives on the city's streets.

Little over a year ago, 16-year-old Irfan Wahid was fatally stabbed on his way home from school during a row over a girl.

Irfan’s killer, also 16 at the time, had been carrying a knife in his bag for weeks and was locked up for 10 years after putting it to deadly use.

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Sgt Lucy Leadbeater, of Leeds Inner East Policing Team, said: “The one thing that came through following Irfan’s death was the way the community pulled together. I think it has contributed to knife crime being talked about more and that’s something we want.

“We want it to be a subject young people aren’t frightened to talk about.”

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That spirit of working together to make a positive change was in evidence on Saturday when various organisations joined police and the council for two events held under the Leeds Lives Not Knives banner.

Coun Debra Coupar, the council’s executive member for communities, said: “I think it’s absolutely fantastic here today to see everybody coming together, particularly children and young people who are standing against knife crime.

Coun Debra Coupar, Leeds District Commander Paul Money and Sgt Lucy Leadbeater.

“They’re displaying all the positive ways young people can benefit the community, rather than how they often seen in negative terms.”

Free activities were put on at the Compton Centre, where young people also wrote their messages for a safer Leeds.

And the Ark later hosted a presentation on knife crime and gave teenagers the chance to walk through a metal detector as a symbolic way of showing they do not carry weapons.

Coun Debra Coupar, Leeds District Commander Paul Money and Sgt Lucy Leadbeater.

Chief Superintendent Paul Money, Leeds District Commander, said: “In my experience, knives and young people just don’t mix. I’ve seen too many lives ruined as a consequences of young people felling it’s necessary to carry a knife. We don’t see the levels of knife crime that some cities do, but that’s no cause for complacency.

“There are some groups of people who don’t necessarily have the trust in the police and the authorities that we would want. That’s what were striving to achieve with events like this.”

It is hoped that the weekend’s events will also be the start of a wider initiative across the city.

Coun Coupar said: “Even just talking to young people like we’ve done today, we’re already starting to develop some ideas for how we can take this forward.

“I want to hear their experiences so we can really work with them. You get a sense that they genuinely want to engage with us and change things.