Knife crime chicken boxes to be taken back to government

By Nabihah Parkar
Newsbeat reporter

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image copyrightWord On The Curb
image captionLondon group call on the public for solutions to tackle knife crime

A London duo are taking chicken boxes filled with solutions for tackling knife crime to the Home Office.

The boxes have ideas written inside from members of the public for MPs to consider.

It's a response to the government's #knifefree chicken box campaign, which features warnings about carrying knives inside takeaway boxes.

Hayel Wartemberg, co-founder of Word On The Curb, says those in power need to "take notice" of young people's ideas.

image copyrightWord On The Curb
image captionGathering opinions outside of Westfield Stratford, London

Hayel, who set up online broadcaster Word On The Curb with his business partner Ndubuisi Uchea, says he grew up "in and around serious youth violence".

The 27-year-old says the original campaign - which shadow home secretary Diane Abbott called "crude" and "offensive" - "very intimately links stereotypical ideas associated with people of colour".

"Everybody was talking about it. We were getting WhatsApp messages from friends, we were getting involved in discussions on why this is so inappropriate.

"We thought if everyone is contributing to this discussion now, the best way we can consolidate that is to canvas those opinions in chicken boxes as a means to patronise this #knifefree campaign in the same vein they've patronised us."

Former Metropolitan Police chief superintendant Dal Babu previously said the Home Office campaign "seeks to target chicken shops because the assumption is that's where young black people go".

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said the boxes "will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer".

New solutions

Some of the suggestions in the chicken boxes include "education in schools", "investment in youth services", and paying attention to "family issues".

"These solutions in our chicken boxes are all far better ideas than the chicken box idea itself," Hayel told Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"Somebody wrote down an idea about giving young people who are at risk interest-free business loans - how much more effective is that than the cost of sending a young person to prison?"

image copyrightWord on the Curb

Hayel also thinks a community mentorship programme could provide young people with a "guardian angel".

"Their mother could be grossly affected by poverty, maybe the dad's not around, maybe their cousins have been involved in gangs, so if you're pulling a young person from those circumstances, how are they to know right from wrong?

"We're talking about young people across the country living in fear they're going to be stabbed or shot by somebody who doesn't like them.

"What we need to be doing is investing in services that can adequately equip young people with the mental faculties and emotional and educational support needed to steer them in another direction - where they can believe in themselves and believe that their life means far more."

image copyrightHome Office
image captionThe government's #knifefree chicken box campaign

Hayel wants the chicken box solutions he gathered to reach the hands of those making the decisions.

"We're trying to speak to MPs and people with political power to take notice, because we don't want people's ideas to die.

"Until we do get noticed we're not going to stop. If we go there tomorrow and nobody pays attention then we'll be back."

Hayel feels the main thing is to "raise awareness" and says he will "keep banging on the door".

"Our aim is to put the words of Londoners right in front of the Home Office steps and hopefully get those ideas inside the room of the decision-makers."

Hayel says he contacted the Home Office to set up a meeting but hasn't heard back from them.

A Home Office spokesman said its campaign is steering people "away from serious violence" by "communicating with them directly".

"Advertising in chicken shops is one element of this multimedia campaign - and was rolled out nationally following a successful pilot.

"Initial research by the media agency ACMS showed nearly 70% of chicken shop customers are aged between 16-24 - the group we need to communicate with."

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