The event, called The Point, is both urgent and timely in that recent figures show there has been an 80% rise in knife crime in the UK since 2014, with Kent witnessing the fastest rise in the country.
Confirmed speakers include: the Director of the Violence Reduction Unit in Scotland, who will explain working strategies; leading academics on gangs, county lines and knife crime; child protection experts specialising in trauma and attachment; and engineers and medics, who believe that getting rid of the point on knives will go a long way in reducing violence. Representatives from Kent Police will also be speaking at the event.
Alongside talks and presentations there will be a series of free workshops for teachers and parents.
The Point forms part of a month of awareness raising activities about the dangers of knife crime supported by the Church of England in Medway, northwest Kent and the London Boroughs of Bromley and Bexley. It comes soon after the publication of a report by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee which called for urgent action and funding of community initiatives to reduce violence. These include the installation of the ‘Knife Angel’ at Rochester Cathedral and a national service for victims of knife crime which will take place in the Cathedral on 21 September.
Rt Rev Simon Burton-Jones, Bishop of Tonbridge, who will chair the event, said: ‘Knife crime is fast becoming a national priority in Britain, devastating lives, families and communities. It will only be resolved if we understand the problem from all sides.
‘By bringing together specialists, academics and practitioners to explore this problem, The Point has a real opportunity to help us work towards an achievable solution that saves lives.’
For the Rev Nathan Ward, Vicar of St Margaret’s Church, Rainham, who leads a knife crime prevention project out of the church, it’s also vital to dispel some of the misconceptions around knife-crime. He said: ‘It’s important to recognise that knife crime is not a solely youth issue. Contrary to popular belief, 99% of young people aged between ten and 21 years do not carry a knife.
‘The young people I have spoken to who do carry a knife, however, say that they do so because they feel unsafe, even though we live historically in one of the safest times humans have ever known. We’ve got to ask ourselves, “how can this be?’’.’
Alex Stevens, Professor in Criminal Justice at the University’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, added: ‘Recent events in Kent and nationally show the tragic consequences of knife crime. The University is pleased to be hosting this event – as well as contributing its expertise – alongside local partners. We need to work together to reverse the rising trend in knife crime.’
Carol Stewart, Chairperson of MACA, commented: ‘We have seen a worrying increase in knife crime across Kent and too often stereotypes about who the perpetrators of these crimes are. We believe it’s important to reinforce that knife crime is not unique to a particular race, and we want to find ways to encourage people to have more confidence in reporting and to feel safe.’
Further information on The Point, including how to book a place, is available here.