Image from Pastor Stephen Merrick
Image from Pastor Stephen Merrick

Around 200 young people from two local schools attended a drug and violent crime awareness day today at Hollymoor Chapel in Northfield.

Organised by the Longbridge Neighbourhood Police team, the day saw a number of hard hitting presentations on the realities of drug use and violent crime being given to Year 9 pupils from Colmers School and Frankley High School.

The day began with an introduction from Birmingham South Chief  Superintendent Emma Barnett. Longbridge Councillors Andy Cartwright and Jess Phillips also supported the event.

PC Rob Pedley, from West Midlands Police Gangs Task Force,  spoke to the young people about how important it is to make the right choices in life. PC Pedley, a former firearms officer, was severely injured during a snowboarding trip to the Alps in 2008. He made the choice not to go to a coffee shop with friends and instead went off into the mountains alone to snowboard. That solo trip resulted in him finding himself trapped by a storm and falling 240 feet into a gorge. He fractured his spine in 4 places and broke several ribs and limbs. He remains wheelchair bound and he now uses his own experiences of making wrong choices to inspire young people to make the right ones, whether it is regarding gangs, drugs or violent crime.

Marcia Shakespeare of Precious Trust also spoke to the young people. Marcia’s daughter Letisha, 17 and her  cousin Charlene Ellis, 18 were shot dead during a gang shooting in Aston in 2003.  She tours local schools, often with PC Pedley, giving young people her personal insight into gang culture and the devastating effects of violent crime.

Charity DrugFAM  presented the teens with a play about Nick Mills  – a tragic story of the destruction of a young man’s life because of drug addiction. The play is a dramatisation of a true story, as told by Nick’s mother Elizabeth Burton-Phillips in her book ‘Mum, can you lend me twenty quid? – What drugs did to my family’ and was introduced by Elizabeth herself. It was a very moving and powerful performance and gave the youngsters a lot to think and talk about over lunch!

Fourthwall Theatre Network get the young people thinking about choices
Fourthwall Theatre Network get the young people thinking about choices

Fourthwall Theatre Network, founded by ex Colmers pupil Dan Bridgewater, gave an entertaining and thought provoking improvised performance on knife crime, pausing and encouraging the young people in the audience to explore and discuss the choices available to their two characters throughout.

Wolverhampton based Class Room Medics brought the event to a close with a graphic demonstration of the effects of knife crime. Nick from Class Room Medics used an advanced resuscitation dummy named “Stan” and images to show the young people exactly how the body is affected by a stab wound and just how quickly a victim can deteriorate and even die.

Nick and Stan from Class Room Medics
Nick and Stan from Class Room Medics

Longbridge Sgt Karl Pierpoint said: “We hope that this hard-hitting demonstration of what can happen to a person involved in drugs and / or knife crime will encourage young people to choose the right path now and into later life.

“Carrying weapons, taking drugs or being involved in gangs isn’t cool or clever. Instead, as demonstrated with Stan, it can have catastrophic consequences.”

Sgt Pierpoint said that this was the second time they had staged this pro-active event and that it was not organised as a response to a publicly perceived increase in knife crime. In fact, statistics show that the incidence of 10-17 year olds being arrested for carrying a knife or “pointed article” in the West Midlands was three times less last year than it was six years ago – in 2006-7 there were 194 arrests, while in 2011-12 there were just 63.

He said: “One of our main aims today is to deter teenagers from carrying knives. There is a myth that carrying a knife affords protection. Many people who suffer stab wounds actually end up being injured by the very knife they’re carrying.

“Ultimately we’re trying to save lives by encouraging young people to make the right choices and not to get involved with drugs or knife crime. It’s not about preaching to the youngsters. Its about giving them information so that they can choose the right path in life.”

Sgt Pierpoint said that senior teachers representing both schools, Mr Hodgson (Colmers) and Mr McGavey (Frankley), had both given positive feedback, saying that the day was impactive and excellent. He thanked PC Wendie Jordan for her hard work in organising the event, all the organisations who took part in presentations and Hollymoor Community Chapel for hosting.

He added: “There are no winners when knife crime is involved: victims suffer serious injuries or are killed, whilst the perpetrators are locked away in prison for a long time.

“Our work with schools and young people is vital in order to reach impressionable youngsters and deter them from making poor choices which could ruin their lives before they’ve really begun.”

If you have information about drug crime, knife crime or other related crime, you can contact West Midlands Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

If you are a young person with concerns about drug issues or violent crime you can visit the Fearless website

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