Amanda and Stuart Stephens parents of Oly Stephen, speaking at the Thames Valley Knife Crime Conference

PCC brings together partners on the issue of knife crime

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Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Barber has today (27/6) hosted a Thames Valley Knife Crime Conference to discuss the tackling of knife crime.

The conference, held in Milton Keynes, highlighted a range of approaches and initiatives taking place to address knife crime, from Operation Deter; the policing and criminal justice approach, to prevention and education programmes working with young people.

The conference audience was made up of schools and a wide range of other partner organisations. It addressed the impact of knife crime on families, young people and communities, and facilitated discussion across organisations about what more can be done and how learning could be shared.

Amanda and Stuart Stephens whose son Olly was fatally stabbed in Reading in January 2021 spoke of the devastating impact of knife crime and the need for more awareness and education.

Matthew Barber said: “The conference has brought together a range of partners and enabled us to continue the conversation on how we collectively address this issue. I was pleased to be able to able to bring schools into the conversation to hear their views and discuss how they can be better supported.

“There is a lot of good work already taking place in the Thames Valley. Almost one year on from its launch, Operation Deter is making positive progress in taking knives off our streets and there is some excellent prevention work happening in our communities. It is vital we continue the momentum working together with a broad range of partners to tackle not just knife crime but the wider culture of knife carrying.

“I am grateful to all those who attended today for their reflections and contributions, particularly to Amanda and Stuart Stephens whose tragic story is a reminder of the devastating impact of knives.”

Thames Valley Police’s force lead for serious violence and homicide, Assistant Chief Constable Christian Bunt said: “We all know that knife crime tears families apart and spreads fear in communities, particularly with our young people.

“For Thames Valley Police, tackling knife crime remains a priority. Our officers deliver high visibility patrols in hotspot areas and target those who carry knives, as well as those involved in the drugs trade which we know drives violence. We also have robust criminal justice processes which are putting offenders before the courts for swift results, showing there are consequences.

“But we also know that we cannot arrest our way out of knife crime. Prevention is also vital. We shall continue to work with our partners and communities to educate and intervene early to stop young people being drawn into crime in the first place. As today’s conference has shown, we all have a role in this, right across our communities.”

Amanda and Stuart Stephens said: “Anti Knife Crime Education needs to be standardised across the UK and enforced to allow all children to make the right decisions through considering the consequences of their actions. We are campaigning around this, due to our loss.

“There also needs to be training for parents, as the world our children live in, is so different from our childhoods, with the advent of addictive smart phones and the social media that feeds our children harmful content. Add to that reduced funding into the police and youth services and it makes for the perfect negative storm.

“We will only make their lives safer by working together, police, councils, education settings, NHS, youth groups and partners.”

Attendees heard from a range of speakers from organisations including Thames Valley Police (TVP), the Crown Prosecution Service, Milton Keynes Youth Offending Team and Slough Children First, all sharing the progress of Operation Deter.

Operation Deter is a zero-tolerance approach to those found in possession of a knife. It makes better use of charging and remanding adult offenders to court and has specific early interventions for those under 18s to help steer them away from knife crime.

Other presentations included community-based partners Together As One, Lime, The Safety Centre and SOFEA who are all working to support young people through awareness, prevention and educational programmes.

Young peoples’ voices were also heard through presentations from Milton Keynes College which highlighted the impact that knife crime has had within their setting along with a student performance of a powerful piece of drama ‘Broken: the sad truth of knife crime’.