Knife crime: How Welwyn Hatfield schools and police are dealing with the worrying trend

LR: Sir Frederic Osborn headteacher Jed Whelan, councillor Roger Trigg, Paul Hannaford, councillor Barbara Fitzsimon, Zoe Keyte, borough council chief executive Rob Bridge and PCSO Luke Smith. Picture: WHC

LR: Sir Frederic Osborn headteacher Jed Whelan, councillor Roger Trigg, Paul Hannaford, councillor Barbara Fitzsimon, Zoe Keyte, borough council chief executive Rob Bridge and PCSO Luke Smith. Picture: WHC

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Welwyn Hatfield schools are taking action after knife crime offences have more than doubled in the last five years across Hertfordshire.

Floral tributes in Ludwick Way, Welwyn Garden City, following a fatal stabbing.
Picture: Nina MorganFloral tributes in Ludwick Way, Welwyn Garden City, following a fatal stabbing. Picture: Nina Morgan

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that there were 540 offences reported between April 2017 and May 2018, compared to 468 during the same period last year and just 214 in 2013/14.

Following the 152 per cent increase, local headteachers have pledged to keep tackling the problem through a series of initiatives at school.

In a statement to the WHT, they said: “Every school in the area offers its pupils guidance on good citizenship and personal development.

“As part of this approach they emphasise the message that, rather than offering some form of protection, carrying a knife increases the risk of injury, death or imprisonment.”

Jamil Sarki (pictured) was fatally stabbed in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Supplied.Jamil Sarki (pictured) was fatally stabbed in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Supplied.

In 2017 61 offenders were caught carrying knives, the youngest was just 10 years old.

In January this year, 143 offences involving knifes or bladed weapons took place in Hertfordshire with 74 offences being reported in February.

During that period 148 victims were affected, with three children under the age of 12 being injured.

The figures also showed that 50 of those victims were female while 95 were male.

Facts and figures reveal the rise in Cambridgeshire knife crime, including children as young as eight-years-old in possession of a blade or point at school. PHOTO: Fen CopsFacts and figures reveal the rise in Cambridgeshire knife crime, including children as young as eight-years-old in possession of a blade or point at school. PHOTO: Fen Cops

Hertfordshire Constabulary detective chief inspector Tracy Pemberton said that the constabulary is well aware that crimes involving knives are increasing across the country and are working to tackle the “trend”.

DCI Pemberton added: “Whilst this increase has been partly due to improvements in the way we record crime, it is clear that society is changing and the way we deal with these issues is becoming less effective.

“We are currently looking at new ways of working in partnership with councils, schools, charities and other agencies to ensure we are can work together to positively impact on this trend.”

A Hatfield youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons nor can her school, admitted to St Albans Youth Court to taking a knife into school on January 4.

Paul Hannaford at Sir Frederic Osborn School in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: WHCPaul Hannaford at Sir Frederic Osborn School in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: WHC

In February a Potters Bar primary school excluded one of its pupils after they brought a kitchen knife into school.

A number of schools including Onslow St Audrey’s, Sir Frederic Osborn and Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School have recently worked with Welwyn Hatfield Council to deliver a message against knife crime to pupils through a presentation from ex-gang member Paul Hannaford.

Mr Hannaford lost his way in his teenage years when he became part of a gang in East London, found himself addicted to cocaine and heroin, and carried a large knife around with him.

After 10 years of crime and being stabbed seven times himself, Mr Hannaford ended up handing himself into police following a series of robberies.

LR: Sir Frederic Osborn headteacher Jed Whelan, councillor Roger Trigg, Paul Hannaford, councillor Barbara Fitzsimon, Zoe Keyte, borough council chief executive Rob Bridge and PCSO Luke Smith. Picture: WHCLR: Sir Frederic Osborn headteacher Jed Whelan, councillor Roger Trigg, Paul Hannaford, councillor Barbara Fitzsimon, Zoe Keyte, borough council chief executive Rob Bridge and PCSO Luke Smith. Picture: WHC

Following his sentencing, he was taken to hospital to save his leg from being amputated due to the drug use, and then to rehab.

Since his release from prison about 10 years ago, Mr Hannaford has stayed clean and now dedicates his time to educating young children on the dangers of knives and drugs.

He said: “Educating youngsters on these issues is paramount to decreasing these crimes.

“Drugs and knife crimes are massively linked so to get these figures down schools need to drill it into kids before it’s too late.

Paul Hannaford and Mount Grace School headteacher Peter Baker.
Picture: Hertsmere CouncilPaul Hannaford and Mount Grace School headteacher Peter Baker. Picture: Hertsmere Council

“Teaching them about it in Year 9 upwards is too late, they’ve probably been exposed to it at house parties by then.”

Last week Daniel Frazer-Traille, 30, of Jasmine Gardens, was sentenced for the murder of Jamil Sarki (pictured above right and next to floral tributes left at the scene) while Vinnie Bradshaw, 19, of Bassingburn Walk, and 35-year-old Keith Coventry of The Close, Chingford, were also sent to prison for manslaughter following the stabbing in WGC.

On Saturday, June 16, Andrew Mason, 31, of WGC, was stabbed to death in Panshanger.

A murder investigation was immediately launched and three men were arrested.

DCI Pemberton added: “Often the police are the last part of this tragic story; dealing with the resulting deaths, serious injuries and criminal proceedings.

“We need to focus on preventing these things happening at a much earlier stage, by ensuring that our young people are given the information, guidance and support they need to prevent them from being sucked into this.”

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