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Young people told gangs and knives ruin lives

1 Apr 2019
  • Young people were invited to a talk about gangs and knife crime

  • Former gangs members, victims and police officers spoke about their experiences

  • Dozens of young people attended the event at Hertfordshire University

The room was filled to capacity as dozens of young people, along with their parents and guardians, listened to former gang members, victims and police officers recounting their experiences of violent crime.

The Lives not Knives event at Hertfordshire University on Tuesday March 26, was the first of many such events planned by Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Children and Young Persons Team, to make young people in Hertfordshire aware of the terrible consequences of getting involved with gangs and violent crime.

The evening began with talks by Mark Pearce and Gary Moore from Hertfordshire Police, who offered advice on first aid for traumatic injuries, such as knife wounds. 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. 

Ben Smith provided his personal story of regret about his past involvement in violent crime, the reality of prison and how he has now moved forward with his life. Gavin McKenna from Reach Every Generation spoke about his previous gang affiliation and how he now works with young people to instigate change and empower them through training and coaching. Darren Awolesi also from Reach every Generation shared how a gunshot injury has changed his life forever and how he uses his experiences to educate young people and encourage them to make positive choices.

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 spoke from the heart about losing a child to knife crime and the devastating effect that this has had on her family. Brooke, Josh’s sister, described the close relationship that she had with her brother and the grief that his murder has left behind. 

After the event refreshments were provided and Herts Sports Partnership and YC Herts were there to offer a variety of positive activities for the young people to engage with.

Sergeant Helen Croughton from the Gangs and Schools team said: “The event enabled young people to hear first-hand about the reality of gang affiliation and associated criminality and the devastating impact this can have. It encouraged young people to think about the choices they are making and empowered them to make change. The young people had the opportunity after the event to speak with the presenters personally and many of them reached out immediately. 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:

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