Straight Talking West Midlands — a team of young parents who go into schools to talk to pupils — are now delivering more sessions than ever. This year, to complement our sessions on teen pregnancy, healthy and unhealthy relationships and child sexual exploitation (CSE), our Peer Educators are introducing a new session: gang and knife crime prevention.
As with all the sessions, this is being designed as an early intervention tool, with the aim of preventing children from being persuaded into gangs and related crime. Working with the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, we’re designing the sessions to cover topics such as the pressures of gang affiliation, drug trafficking, the impact of knife crime, and awareness of the ways in which young people can be groomed to take part in criminal activity.
What will the sessions cover?
Shocking statistics from the Office of National Statistics show that knife crime is rising faster in the West Midlands than anywhere else in the country – in fact it has tripled in the last five years. And the National Crime Agency has recently identified Birmingham as a major hub for county lines, whereby children are recruited and bribed to deal drugs in rural areas, often ending up hundreds of miles from home.
The new sessions for schools and youth groups in the West Midlands are still in development, but they will be based on sessions already being trialled by Straight Talking in London. They will cover the pressures that young people may be under to carry a weapon, or to be associated with gangs or criminal activity, and — like the sessions we already deliver on child sexual exploitation — the ways in which young people can be groomed.
In the West Midlands, sessions on gangs and knife crime prevention are supported by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) so our aim is early intervention. The first step to prevention is knowing the full facts, so our Peer Educators will be making pupils fully aware of how what starts as a ‘friendship’ may lead to pressure being put onto them, and the consequences of getting involved in criminal activity.
As with all our Straight Talking work, these will be interactive, lively sessions, and the Peer Educators will be using role-playing games to get pupils thinking about how they might react in certain situations, opening up discussions about their expectations versus the realities, and making them fully aware of the risks. They’ll also be showing videos — such as the one below from Rosca, a former violent offender who explains how he became involved with a criminal gang in London from a very early age.