Manchester Communities Push Back against Knife Crime Rise

Pocket Knife Collection CR Alexander Rushing

By: Alex Daniel

Over recent weeks the rise in knife crime and a series of fatal stabbings have held the headlines in Manchester. On January 22, Kennie Carter was fatally stabbed in the chest. His death was followed by that of Alan Szelugowski, who was found on January 30th with a single stab wound in a local park. Then, on the 4th of February Dylan Keelan, was the third young man to be fatally stabbed in the Greater Manchester area in as many weeks.  

Dylan, who was twenty, was the eldest of the three deaths. Alan was seventeen and Kennie thirteen. Not only were all of the victims young, but many of those arrested for perpertrating these crimes have also been young men.  

In response, Greater Manchester police has stepped up its ‘Stop and Search’ initiative and used it to target key areas to try and curb these high-profile crimes. Dubbed ‘Operation Sycamore’, the plan has seen “extra uniformed officers within communities across the region, specifically targeting hotspot areas for crime”, according to a statement released by GMP. They went on to say that “officers have focused on engaging with young people; challenging and responding to anti-social behaviour and crime and exercising their stop and search powers when required.” 

The police, however, aren’t the only people currently trying to stem the tide. There are many local people across Manchester trying to steer young people away from a life of violent crime before it ever becomes an issue for the police.  

Amongst them are the team at ‘84 Youth’ including Akemia Minott who is the director at the organisation, currently based in a shipping container in Moss-side. From her time working in that community, Akemia knows the impact that a violent crime can have, not only those involved, but also on their loved ones and the people around them 

“It’s devastating when it’s a young person you know especially,” she says. “It’s such a loss because you can see the potential for that young person, but the fact that they might not have seen any and that’s why they’ve got involved in something, that’s a lot”  

Akemia’s organisation, 84 Youth, was set up following the fatal stabbing of a young man on Moss-side. However, they don’t directly tell people not to carry knives, instead they focus on the root causes. With workshops aimed around society, gender roles, and manhood. According to the team at 84 the key things to focus on are “slow down thinking and integrity” because they want to get “people to look at their actual values, not other people’s, and their expectations for their own life rather than expectations by society.” 

From her experience, Akemia tells me that it’s not just the police who need to take responsibility for stopping this form of crime “We need more opportunities for young people. Yeah, people can be like the police need to do more but if we don’t know where our young men or young women are at night how would the police? So it’s down to everybody.” 

Recently, Akemia took part in a video for the #SpeakOutToSaveALife campaign being run by the region’s Violence Reduction Unit. This aims to get people to speak out if they believe a young person they know is at risk of becoming involved in violent crime. The video is opened by Mathew Norford of 1Message, who used to be involved in this type of violent crime, but is now trying to help young people turn their lives around, like he has, by using his knowledge of how young people find themselves in these situations, 

“A lot of them get groomed. So they haven’t got a chance, they’re manipulated or they think the person loves them. A lot of kids get kicked out of school. They don’t know that there’s other opportunities, other ways to get education. Poverty is another one, what kid at thirteen or fourteen is gonna want to hear their mum cry and see their mum struggling with payday loans.” 

While the draws of this kind of life may be strong, Mathew believes there are still things that can be done to steer young people away from violent crime “The government needs to get more money to fund social workers and like in everything we need the right people in the right places. 

“We need provisions for kids. We need more after-school activities. We need more mentors and we need a community to do their part. If you see a kid outside the corner shop and you know they’re not eating. You know the circumstances it’s in your community. Stop. Have a conversation with him. Ask him if he’s hungry, that’s helping. He’s not going to now look at robbing someone for food now.  

As for the campaign, Mathew says it’s important to speak out if you think someone is at risk of becoming involved in this crime “Yeah, speak out for them. Because that person might be scared to speak out. You can do it anonymously. You don’t need to put yourself in danger.” 

So while, for the moment, the Police are continuing with the increased stop and search, it seems in the long term the work of the Violence Reduction Unit and organisations like 1Message and 84 Youth might be able to prevent young people ever becoming involved in knife violence to start with.  

Check below to see our extended interview with Mathew Norford:

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