As the moving and powerful Knife Angel sculpture departs after another memorable visit to Cleveland, it’s time to reflect on what it means for policing and the wider community.
The 27 ft-tall Knife Angel is made of 100,000 knives donated by the public or seized by police and aims to highlight knife crime and educate young people on its harmful effects.
The Angel’s latest visit was organised by the brilliant Chris Cave Foundation. Led by local campaigner Theresa Cave, the charity aims to provide anti-knife education to young people across the area.
Their knife bin collected over 100 knives during the course of the Angel’s stay – which in my mind, is another 100 knives off our streets and out of the hands of dangerous people.
The visit to Kirkleatham Museum, Redcar, ended with an emotional vigil by all of those touched by the scourge of violence and knife crime – again highlighting the devastation violence causes in our communities.
But the Angel’s latest visit has led me to wonder “How many more lives must be lost to the knives?”
Over the Bank Holiday, a 33-year-old man was taken to hospital after an alleged knife attack at an address in Dormanstown. The previous week a man in his 30s was found with stab wounds in Yarm Road, Stockton.
Reports of such as these should never be the ‘norm’. Residents in Cleveland should not have to live with the threat of violence on their doorsteps and in their communities.
The Government’s most recent crime figures show Cleveland is second in the country for offences using knives and bladed objects. That means we have higher knife crime rates than big cities like Liverpool and Manchester.
I’m not trying to scare anyone with these figures. It just proves more than ever why we need a dedicated unit for reducing violent crime in Cleveland and why it was such a major coup to secure the additional £3.5m earlier this year to set one up.
Named locally as the Cleveland Unit for the Reduction of Violence (CURV), this multi-agency team will be dedicated to getting upstream of serious violence and using a ‘whole system approach’ to address the root causes of violent behaviour.
This will be particularly important for the next generation – CURV will commission programmes and initiatives that will engage young people, support them to work through issues and help them make more positive life choices.
At the same time, I’ll be holding Cleveland Police to account on how they prevent, respond to and investigate violent offences across the area. It’s imperative we have an efficient and effective police service to deter and disrupt violent criminals in our communities.
Through a combination of tough enforcement and tailored interventions for those affected by, at risk of, or involved in serious violence, I’m hopeful we can turn these recent trends around.
It’s time we pull together to end this epidemic of violence – from the police, to health providers and local councils – and ensure we don’t need to invite the Knife Angel to return to Teesside again.