'Each knife taken off the streets could be a life saved': Anti-knife campaigner helps police uncover HUNDREDS of knives from Lancashire's streets in weapon crackdown

Byron Highton lost his brother JonJo in 2014 after he was brutally stabbed. Since then, he has tirelessly campaigned against knife crime in Lancashire and is now working alongside police to make our streets safer.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 4:33 pm

A shocking total of 300 knives were taken off Lancashire’s streets during a seven day period the Post can reveal, with police officers making 72 arrests as a result of a knife crime operation, during which eight of the deadly weapons were seized.

Officers ramped up efforts by conducting knife sweeps, using metal detecting wands and visiting schools in a bid to tackle knife crime levels in the county during their Operation Sceptre national week of intense police action from April 26 to May 2.

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And they searched 26 public spaces for weapons with help from police cadets and anti-knife crime campaigner Byron Highton of JJ Effect CIC, who volunteered his time to help with the project.

His brother JonJo was brutally stabbed and murdered in 2014 which led him to pursue a charitable career through his organisation 'The JJ Effect', supporting young people in the county stay away from knife crime and hopes to continue working alongside the police to influence young people away from using weapons.

He exclusively told the Post today that children as young as 12 regularly ask him for ways to get hold of weapons and areas "to stab people without it killing them" in hopes of seeing their street gang credibility rise.

He said: "My main job has always been doing talks in schools and breaking down the barriers between young people and the police. I know a lot of people don't trust the police, but I want to act as the middle man and show people they are there to keep us safe.

Anti-knife crime campaigner Byron said children as young as 12 ask him where to 'stab people without them being killed'

"My talks are classed as some of the most impactful anti-knife crime talks in the country and make a real difference to people's lives. I am finally seeing that trust between the public and the police build back up.

"The police are risking their lives and are underfunded and outnumbered. I have worked with them personally and they have helped me so much with what happened to my brother. To work with them on a personal level has been amazing.

"My interventions have been so successful that I hope to continue working with the police more closely going forward. I have been to some of the worst schools in the country and seen it all. It is scary how many young people are carrying weapons and living in dangerous situations and being involved with gang culture.

"My life every day is knife crime, misery and pain. To hear what some people go through and how they have lost loved ones to knives, it gives me sleepless nights. Unfortunately, I am not surprised by how many weapons the police found, but every night taken off the streets could be a life saved."

The campaigner worked alongside Lancashire Police to trace 300 knives off the streets

400 young people learned about the risks and dangers of nights in a series of school visits from police officers and Byron, in a bid to discourage young people from becoming involved in knife crime.

The Post can reveal that knife crimes had dropped by almost 10 per cent in the past year in Lancashire with less than one per cent of crimes in the borough relating to knives.

But this follows from a steady rise in knife related incidents in the South Lancashire division in the lead up to before the Covid-19 pandemic, with 200 incidents recorded in 2016/17, 309 in 2017/18 and 377 in 2018/2019.

Their operation linked closely with Lancashire Police’s longer-term Operation Edge initiative, which focuses on reducing and preventing violent crime involving knives and bladed weapons, which has seen over 7,000 knives and weapons removed from Lancashire's streets so far.

Police conducted regular knife sweeps in 'hotspot' areas where weapons are often found

Inspector Dave Oldfield of Lancashire Violence Reduction Network, which co-ordinated activity, hailed the week as 'hugely successful' and thanked Byron for his efforts.

He added: “It’s been a hugely successful week with lots of positive interaction with the public.

“Officers have undertaken a number of intelligence driven operations to keep our communities safe from the dangers posed by weapons. Fortunately, knife crime is low in Lancashire compared with other areas.

“We have had a huge push on knife crime prevention during Op Sceptre week, supported by working with Byron Highton of JJ Effect CIC. By working with younger people to encourage them away from knives and working longer term together with partner organisations to address the root causes of knife crime we can develop safer communities for now and the future.

“As COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease I urge anyone who is thinking about carrying a knife to think twice. If you carry a knife you are much more likely to get hurt and if you become seriously hurt it could affect you and your family for the rest of your life.”

Knife crime has dropped by nine per cent between April last year and March 2021

Sergeant Nick Miller, who managed the operation in Preston, added: "It is still important we do all we can to maintain our activity in tackling knife crime.

"The police can not single-handedly solve knife crime on their own, we just put a plaster over it as best as we can by arresting and prosecuting criminals.

"However, there is still a barrier between the police and members of the community who carry weapons, so these initiatives help to break those down."

If you have any information about knife crime in Lancashire, contact the police on 101 or contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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Lancashire police pay a visit to the On The Ropes programme, run by anti-knife crime community organisation the The JJ Effect and Smart Fit Preston