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Joining forces to protect the young people of Dorset

This week during Operation Sceptre, a week-long campaign focusing on action against knife crime, I attended the Safer BCP Partnership’s conference ‘Keeping Our Young People Safe’. I heard powerful personal testimonies along with expert findings on the best ways to help vulnerable young people in Dorset.

The event provided a welcome opportunity to meet with key partners, as well as the chance to speak to charities and organisations about the work they do to help the children, teenagers, and young adults in our county. I was honoured to be the opening speaker and highlight the importance of putting young people at the centre and driving prevention and partnership working as integral parts of keeping our young people safe.

Protecting the younger generation from harm has been a key part of my mission to tackle violent crime in Dorset. It’s why I want a Violence Reduction Unit bringing together essential partners to address the underlying causes of these offences and get ahead of the problem for the sake of our young people.

During the event, the devastating impact of knife crime was told through the moving testimony of Cameron Hamilton’s grandmother, Tracy Jose. Cameron, 18, died after being stabbed in Bournemouth town centre in August this year. In describing the impact of the family’s tragic loss, Tracy’s powerful words and determination to stop this happening to another family struck a chord with every person in the room. I also learnt more about the superb work of the Ben Kinsella Trust in educating youngsters. Ben was a 16-year-old who was stabbed to death on the streets of London after celebrating the end of his GCSEs in 2008. Since his death, his family have campaigned tirelessly, successfully lobbying for a change in the law which saw mandatory life sentences for knife related murder raised from 15 to 25 years. The Trust have also won awards for their hard-hitting radio campaign, and they run exhibitions to educate young people on the dangers of knife crime.

I also heard from experts about the vulnerability of our young people, and why early intervention is vital for help, especially with those who can slip through the net. I know the background to knife crime offences with young people are increasingly complicated and the offence is often a symptom of complex factors. This is why it is so important to get to young people early with help, education, and expertise. Interventions at an early stage are key, as is support from a multitude of different agencies. Knife crime and the reasons behind it, cannot be solved through policing alone, and it was thought-provoking to hear from so many organisations about the work being done to deal with issues from county lines to domestic abuse.

It was great to have the chance to speak with representatives from groups which ranged from Victim Support, Sexual Health Dorset, No More Victims, Vita Nova, Escapeline, Shores, Stars and With You. These groups are doing crucial work to support our communities and provide help to victims, schools, and other stakeholders.

What particularly struck me from the different discussions and talks during the day, was the need to make sure the right services are provided at the right time. When that is done correctly, the positive impact goes beyond that one person, it has a ripple effect, on that person’s family, their friends, their community, and society in general. Sadly, we know all too well what happens when this goes wrong.

What was clear to me, was that it takes more than just policing to make a difference. During the event’s closing speech, three things were highlighted – prevention, patience, and persistence. I would add a fourth, partnership. Without joined-up effective communication and shared objectives, tackling the scourge of knife crime and protecting our young people from harm will not be successful. It is only through a broad church of expertise and multi-agency working, that we can turn the tide for the future generations of Dorset residents.

David Sidwick

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner

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