Nottinghamshire Police say a ‘change of culture’ of officers is needed to tackle knife crime with an ex-gang member claiming incidents go unreported.
Reece Campbell, 24, from St Ann’s, was involved in gangs for six years from the age of 15; he is now a support worker at the Chayah Development Project, a Sneinton-based organisation working to help people out of gangs.
Reece says ‘a lot’ of knife crimes go unreported to the police because victims are put off by officers questioning them in hospital to pursue investigations before victims are treated, an issue police are working to resolve.
“A lot of people will get stabbed and go to hospital – or not go to hospital – and they’ll say to doctors they cut themselves with glass or something else,” Reece said.
“Let’s say [a gang member] says to the doctor, ‘I’ve been stabbed’. The police will try and question them before they’ve been stitched up in hospital. No one wants that.”
Reece says the youngest person he’s seen carry a blade was an eight-year-old boy and crimes are not reported because of the possible ‘repercussions’ of the victims facing further harm or being labelled a ‘snitch’.
He spoke out about a problem so ingrained, Nottinghamshire Police became the first force in the country to set up a specialist knife crime unit a year and a half ago.
Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Leona Scurr heads the operation and says officers are working to understand the ‘underlying issues’ why knife crimes are committed to reduce them.
She says police are working with other agencies to safeguard approaches to knife victims in hospital because officers were responding by “wanting information so they could do their investigation” before “making sure a person was safe”.
DCI Scurr said: “Officers need to think what’s happened to people in their lives, why they ended up a victim or an offender of a stabbing.
“Taking a more personal approach is the way we’re moving forward with this. Then, in their own time, they’ll talk to us.”
DCI Scurr says knife crime victims are more likely to become offenders.
Some people, she says, carry blades for protection or for retribution purposes, while males of ‘low social standing’ do it to give them ‘kudos’ on the streets.
Police figures show there was an average of one reported stabbing nearly every three days in the city or county last year – but the number of overall reported stabbings reduced.
In 2016 three stabbings caused fatal injures – this rose from one such death in 2015 – but the 125 reported stabbings dropped from 149 two years ago.
DCI Scurr says officers are using the intelligence of neighbourhood inspectors to conduct searches on people they have grounds to believe are carrying a blade – they are currently targeting St Ann’s.
This comes in the wake of the death of Reuben Morris-Laing, 21, who was killed in a St Ann’s knife attack on March 22.
DCI Scurr admits there is no room for complacency, and says ‘habitual knife crime carriers’ considered a risk are being targeted.
But, although a minimum jail sentence of six months was introduced in 2015 for repeat adult knife crime offenders, this hasn’t proved a deterrent.
DCI Scurr says knife crime is a ‘deep-rooted’ issue and the best strategy is to combat youth knife violence through education.
Trisha Bergan tragically lost her son Eugene, aged 27, after he was stabbed in the neck with a nine-inch blade near his Strelley home in 2002.
Trisha, 74, is a campaigner against knife crime and admits not a day goes by when she does not cry about the loss of her son, and she often looks through the window and wonders if Eugene will come home.
“He’s never coming home,” she said, “No matter how many years since it happened, I am still grieving and it remains do hurtful – my life has changed completely.”
Trisha talks to school and college pupils across the city and county explaining the dangers of knives and tells young people how she went to see Eugene’s body at the Queen’s Medical Centre and kissed and touched his cold hand.
“I tell the youngsters that and they all start crying. And I say that is what’s going to happen if they get involved with knives: funeral arrangements, going to the hospital [to see the victim],” she added.
“I explain how I looked at my child in a box and then in a big hole in the ground. Hopefully it’ll get through.”
VIDEO: Nottingham community schemes engage with young people in a bid to prevent knife crime.
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