Take a Knife Save a Life: Residents patrol streets of Harold Hill to prevent knife crime
PUBLISHED: 17:00 16 April 2019
Residents have taken to patrolling the streets of Havering to try to prevent knife crime and ensure young people feel safe.
Stephen Gowers and MMA fighter Stacy Hayes started the Take a Knife Save a Life campaign after the tragic death of Jodie Chesney.
The 17-year-old Scout leader was fatally stabbed in Amy's Park, St Neot's Road, Harold Hill on Friday, March 1.
The Take a Knife Save a Life volunteers patrol the streets with the aim of providing guidance and opportunities for people to anonymously hand over knives for disposal.
The Recorder joined the group on one of its patrols on Monday, May 15. It soon became clear that despite only starting the patrols last week the volunteers have already become a known presence in the area.
Dog walkers stopped to congratulate them on the work they've been doing and children playing in Central Park, Gooshays Drive recognised some of the volunteers, with one child even asking if he could one day join a patrol.
Stephen said: “We walk around, we act as a visual deterrent, we interview the public and we let everyone know what we're about.
“We give people options and someone to go to.”
Dressed in protective clothing and purple vests, the volunteers are a varied bunch. The group includes a trained nurse and a boxing coach.
Stacy, who grew up in Harold Hill but now lives in Loughton, feels that she can relate to the young people in the borough.
She said: “They just don't understand the consequences of carrying the knife they've picked up.
“They're angry and they just don't understand what the other options are.
“When you're in that position and you think that you've got to carry a knife to protect yourself, it's because you think society has given up on you.
“I remember when I was 13 and I used to get arrested all the time for fighting.
“I used to think I don't care, because no one cares about me. That was my attitude. But we do care.”
The campaigners have applied to become a charity and hope to tackle the issue of knife crime with events, partnerships with schools and youth clubs, in addition to the patrols.
“We don't want to start a youth club, but maybe invest in a youth club,” said Stacy.
She added that while Harold Hill does have some good services for young people, they're missing more practical activities, such as a bricklaying course or a DJ skills course.
“You've got to be able to relate to that age group. And from what I can see, people are relating to the younger ones but not the ones that are needing help,” she said.
The group has received support from MPs and Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate in the upcoming mayoral campaign who is also a resident in Harold Hill.
He said: “Projects like Take a Knife Save a Life mean so much to the communities they operate in.
“I stand side to side with Take a Knife Save a Life, even if they take just one knife off the streets - that is a life potentially saved.”
The volunteers hope that the campaign will become part of a wider community effort.
Stephen said: “We're hoping to get volunteers to sit at the bus stops. They'll be DBS checked and vetted and can sit there during school movement times and basically keep an eye on the kids and make sure they're OK.
“I'm also hoping we'll have a service where they can ring us and we can give them a lift home if they're in trouble.
“We're open to any ideas to anyone on our Facebook Page. The whole community can brainstorm together and we can come up with solutions to tackle this problem.
“We can all act together and hopefully we can spread throughout Havering and beyond.”
Visit facebook.com/groups/1117505591754598/ to find out more.