A CAMPAIGN has been launched today to eliminate the threat of knives from Flintshire communities.

The Flintshire North policing team, in partnership with The Leader, Coleg Cambria, and the Ben Kinsella Trust, have launched a week of action and awareness to tackle what has been called the 'forgotten epidemic'.

Using the hashtags #stopknifecrime, #YouCanSaveaLife and #stopknifecrimeflintshire the campaign aims to dissuade children and young people from carrying knives and bust the myth that carrying a weapon provides protection.

Most parts of Wales have seen an overall increase in knife crime this year.

1,467 offences were recorded in Wales in December 2020, up from 1,350 in December 2019. Knife crime is now 250 per cent higher in Wales than it was in March 2014.

North Wales Police recorded 277 offences involving a knife or a sharp weapon in 2019-20, Office for National Statistics data shows.

That was more than double the 101 reported in 2012-13, when comparable records were first published.

There were roughly 40 knife or sharp weapon offences per 100,000 people in North Wales last year – a record high, and well up from 15 per 100,000 seven years earlier.

The Ben Kinsella Trust said the figures make "grim reading for Wales".

That said, there isn't a major issue with knife crime in Flintshire - there has actually been a reduction in the north of the county this year due to operations in communities like Connah's Quay, Shotton and Garden City.

But there have been incidents this year.

Incidents involving knives has fallen by 70 percent in Flintshire North. There have been five incidents recorded this year compared to 17 in the same period last year.

But five incidents - or even one - is too many.

This is due to the devastating consequences knife crime can have on victims and their families - and even the perpetrators who face lengthy prison sentences as police and courts take a 'zero tolerance' stance on the issue.

Sgt Matt Subacchi, who is spearheading the campaign, explained: "The sad thing for me is that one of those five incidents in Flintshire North involved teenagers. We don't want to record any knife crimes involving youths here."

He added: "I was shocked to read the statistic recently that there are 125 knife assaults in the UK every day. I wanted to do something to drive home the message that we don't want children and young adults to pick up knives or any weapons. The idea was to bring different organisations together to deliver that message in order to prevent knife crime in Flintshire.

"There have been incidents this year where young adults have been in possession of bladed weapons. If this campaign prevents one child or youth picking up a knife then it will have been worthwhile.

"I don't want the public to think we have an issue with youths carrying knives in Flintshire North, we don't. But in a country where knife crime is happening it is important that we all play our part to prevent it."

The Ben Kinsella Trust have back the campaign as part of its ongoing drive to educate young people on the dangers of knife crime and help them to make positive choices to stay safe.

What happened to Ben is a stark reminder of the dangers of knives.

Sgt Subacchi added: "Ben's story has always been one that struck a chord with me, I remember reading it in the newspapers. It is the story of a young boy celebrating his GCSE results who was fatally stabbed. That is why I approached the Ben Kinsella Trust to see if they could support us in the campaign."

Like his older half-sister Brooke Kinsella, who played Kelly Taylor in EastEnders, Ben had been involved in acting and had a promising future ahead of him.

The significant media attention around his murder sparked a series of anti-knife crime demonstrations and led to a review of UK knife crime sentencing laws.

The trust says: "Ben was just 16 years old when he was stabbed to death in a horrific act of senseless violence on 29th June 2008.

"Ben had been out at a local pub to celebrate the end of his GCSEs with his friends. On their way home, he and his friends realised they were being followed by three older teenagers. Scared and worried, they decided to run home.

"But the older teenagers chased after them. They were seeking revenge for an altercation in the club that had taken place earlier that evening. Ben and his friends had absolutely nothing to do with the altercations, but when the older boys caught up with Ben, in an entirely unprovoked attack, they stabbed him to death.

"Ben was the 17th teenager to be killed in London that year."

"Explaining its mission, the trust adds: "We educate young people on the dangers of knife crime and help them to make positive choices to stay safe. Our workshops follow the journey of both the victim and the offender through a series of unique and immersive experiences to show young people how choices and consequences are intrinsically linked.

"Our workshops change young people’s attitudes to knife crime; debunking the myth that carrying a knife will protect you. They strengthen peer values; ensuring young people give better advice to each other and challenge peers who are carrying (or thinking of carrying) a knife."

Knife amnesty

An amnesty will run this week from June 1-4, 2021, to coincide with the campaign.

Members of the public can hand in knives without question at the front desk of Connah's Quay Police Station, Wepre Drive, between 8am and 10am.

Police said: "You do not have to provide any details - just help us prevent knives being accessible to anyone. Throwing out old knives - hand them in!"

People are reminded that they must take the knives directly to the police station and only between the hours stated.