Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham knife amnesty 'a tokenistic gesture'

Image caption 16 knives have been collected in the first three months of the Birmingham amnesty

A knife amnesty in Birmingham has been described as a "tokenistic gesture" by a former gang member.

Errol Lawson spoke out after 16 knives were handed in over the first three months of the scheme, prompted by the deaths of five people died in stabbings in eight months.

Mr Lawson, now a pastor in Digbeth, said a different approach was needed.

But charity Word 4 Weapons, which set up the amnesty, said it needed more time to succeed.

'A good sentiment'

Police figures showed that in 2012-13 there were 1,615 knife-related incidents in the city, although police said over the past six years knife crime had fallen by 63% across the force area.

Among the high profile deaths in the city were Christina Edkins, 16, who was stabbed on a bus on her way to school in Halesowen in March last year and Joshua Ribera, 18, who was also killed in 2013.

Mr Lawson said: "For me the knife surrenders is a tokenistic gesture.

"Although it's a good sentiment, if we really want to see knife crime reduced we need to look at the issues around why a young person will carry a knife."

He believes young people need educating, because they believe carrying a knife is a "cool thing to do now".

'More time needed'

Knife collection bins were installed in February at three Birmingham churches, one in Lozells, one in Hockley and one in Erdington.

West Midlands Police and Crime commissioner Bob Jones, who backed the amnesty, said it was part of a police programme of education around knives.

The charity's founder Michael Smith, said that as well as collecting the knives, it offers practical advice to young people and it was too soon to judge the success of the amnesty.

He said: "After three months I wouldn't be looking in a bin to find out what's in them, it would be six months before I'd even look in them, that's based on experience."

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