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Anti-knife crime ‘Peace Week’ piloted in Watford school

16 May 2019
  • Peace Week scheme aims to educate young people on risks and consequences of knife crime.

  • Two dedicated youth crime PCSOs are building relationships with both primary and secondary schools in order to capture those young people most at risk.

  • Guest speakers were arranged to speak on the subject of county lines, plus gang and youth violence.

Young people have been learning about the impact and risks of knife crime as part of a ‘Peace Week’ education scheme piloted in Watford for the very first time.

Officers and staff from the Watford Community Safety Unit organised a number of guest speakers to deliver presentations to Year 7 students at Francis Combe Academy on Horseshoe Lane. They were able to do this thanks to funding from the Watford BID and the intu Centre.

During the week, youth violence intervention organisation The Safety Box ran interactive sessions with the 11 and 12 year olds during the school day. These are designed to build self-esteem, alter negative behaviour and provide children with the tools needed to avoid high-risk conflict.

Two dedicated Youth Crime Police Community Support Officers were also there throughout the week, building on their rapport with the youngsters.

Due to a jointly funded initiative between police and Chessbrook Education Support Centre (ESC), PCSO Daisy Jenkins and PCSO Keith Sayers have been working with both primary and secondary schools across the town, including Chessbrook Education Support Centre, since January.

They have been forging relationships with staff and pupils to ensure that young people who are most at risk of being drawn into crime are given extra support and guidance as well as the opportunity to try positive diversionary activities, such as those offered by YC Herts*.

On the evening of Thursday, May 9, families were invited to a presentation at the school where anti-knife crime campaigner Alison Cope spoke about the devastating impact knives have had on her life.

Alison tragically lost her 18-year-old son Joshua Ribera in September 2013, after he was stabbed outside a Birmingham night club. Her emotional story hit home with the audience, leaving many in tears.

The next day, Alison met with Watford Chief Inspector Matt Phillips, Safer Neighbourhood Inspector Simon Mason and partners from Watford Borough Council to talk about the wider strategy in place to tackle youth and knife-related crime in Watford. She then delivered her presentation to a group of police officers from Watford, Three Rivers and Hertsmere, plus representatives from Watford Borough Council.

Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Operation Mantis team also gave an input on county lines, which involves criminals exploiting children in order to get them to sell and transport drugs between counties. The young people affected are often vulnerable, and are groomed to hide drugs, weapons, mobile phones and cash. The attendees were given the signs to look out for in young people who may be being exploited.

Watford Safer Neighbourhood Inspector Simon Mason said: “While we don’t have a critical knife crime issue in Watford, we realise that in the current climate there is a need to educate and support our young people to enable them to make positive choices.

“We know the majority of young people are sensible, mature and law-abiding and will go on to achieve great things. For example, we conducted a knife-arch operation at West Herts College last September and a total of 3,000 students were searched. We were pleased to report that not one weapon was found.

“It was also a great opportunity for us to positively engage with the students and reiterate the message that carrying a weapon is not the right choice. However we need to be there for those young people who may, for whatever reason, need extra guidance and support.

“This scheme is the result of months of dedicated hard work from my team, and I believe it will make a real difference. We are looking forward to continuing our prevention work with more schools going forward.”

Steve McShannon, headteacher at Chessbrook ESC, said: 'I am delighted that Chessbrook has been instrumental in the setting up and ongoing support of the vital PCSO initiative in the area.”

Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said: “Knife crime has no place in our town. Although we don’t have the same problems as some parts of the country, it’s really important that our young people understand from an early age the dangers of this type of crime. I will continue to work closely with the police to ensure that those who live, work and learn in Watford are safe.”

Deborah Warwick, Principal at Francis Combe Academy, said: “When we were asked to be involved in this pilot was did not hesitate to accept. We have a full appreciation and understanding of the challenges young people have to overcome in today’s society and therefore have adopted a relentless approach to educating them in how to help themselves to make the right life choices when confronted with difficult decisions linked to knife crime, peer pressure and outside influences. We were delighted to welcome our guest speakers to Francis Combe Academy; the feedback from our young people, and the impact of the presentations, has been extremely positive.”

The success of the first Peace Week is just part of the wider work being done in Watford to tackle youth crime head on.

Firstly the scheme will be rolled out to further schools, with the next scheduled for early July, and there are plans for a similar provision to be delivered in primary schools in the near future.

Officers work closely with partners and attend regular multi-agency meetings in order to share intelligence around those young people who present the highest risk, to ensure that positive intervention can be targeted at the earliest opportunity.

Further to this, every 24 hours patrol plans detailing hotspots for disruption are briefed out to officers, so they are aware of the locations they need to target while out and about.

Since May 2018, 593 people under the age of 25 were stopped and searched in Watford. Only 24 of those had a weapon – some of which were knives – seized from them.

For more information, you can visit the Home Office’s website here

Or Crimestoppers’ Fearless website here

*YC Herts are running a Positive Alternative summer programme for those aged 11 to 17 who are at risk of becoming involved in gang and violent crime. To find out more or to make a referral, visit

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