Liverpool organisations have stressed the importance of educating young people about the dangers of crime after a rise in serious knife offences on Merseyside.
Although Liverpool remains safer from knife crime than many areas, including London and Greater Manchester, Merseyside Police recorded 661 offences with knives or other sharp objects in 2013/2014. This is a rise of 13.8% compared to 581 from incidents the previous year.
StreetDoctors, an organisation which teaches life-saving first aid treatment to high-risk youngsters and works at changing attitudes towards violence and carrying weapons, began in Liverpool in 2008. Started by medical students Nick Rhead and Simon Jackson, it now operates nationwide.
The founders were shocked to discover that many local youths had been victims of a stabbing or shooting, or knew someone who had.
Now, Liverpool team leader Clare Reeder has told JMU Journalism about the organisation’s work and why the rise is worrying. She said: “It’s concerning, it is quite a lot. We target young people because they are at risk, and we’re aiming to reduce the effects. We educate them about the outcomes.”
Reeder also explained that though StreetDoctors helps to convey vital messages regarding the danger of such crime, not everyone is fully aware, saying: “Some people have had a bit of education about it, but there isn’t a lot out there. We’re not here to preach, but it makes you wonder if a bigger effort is needed.”
She added: “It’s disheartening, but it spurs us on.”
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy told the Liverpool Echo: “I know Merseyside Police is absolutely committed to tackling knife crime. They take strong action against those committing violent offences and they work with schools to educate children and young people about the dangers of carrying knives.”
She added: “I support The Terriers, a hard-hitting crime drama presented by the Royal Court Theatre, which tours schools around Merseyside to bring to life the consequences of getting involved in serious crime involving knives, gangs and guns.”
The Terriers was originally commissioned by Merseyside Police in 2008. Artistic director Miriam Mussa told JMU Journalism: “We use arts to emote people. The more realistic you can make it the better. It gets a message across, and it’s a different way of addressing it by using theatre as a catalyst in an effective way.”
She also explained that the group has been involved with a variety of people, including adult prisoners, and believes that theatre is an meaningful way of educating people about crime, saying: “If it’s good writing, well done, it’s a starting point. Drama’s better than an infomercial, which young people find a bit lame.”