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Knife bin campaign grows in Birmingham

WORKING TOGETHER: Michael Smith (left) and Desmond Jaddoo

FIVE NEW weapons bins will be set up in Birmingham within the next few weeks, despite critics saying that the first three bins installed in the city have yielded only 16 weapons since February.

But this is not deterring the Word 4 Weapons charity founder, London-based Michael Smith, who spoke of the expansion plans in Birmingham when he visited the city recently.

He is being supported by Birmingham community activist Desmond Jaddoo, who announced that his group Birmingham Empowerment Forum (BEF) will partner Smith’s project, which is the first UK weapons exchange programme.

LAUNCHED

The secure bins were launched three months ago at three New Testament Church of God (NTCG) centres in Birmingham: in Lozells Road, George Street West, Hockley, and Goosemoor Lane, Erdington.

Now there are plans, within the next several weeks, to install five extra bins – at Broad Street in the city centre, Five Ways island, Sparkbrook and two outside church centres in Wolverhampton. All bins will be away from the focus of CCTV cameras, offering people the chance to deposit knives and guns anonymously.

“Even just one weapon in a bin means that one life has been saved,” said father-of-four Smith, who runs the weapons exchange on a voluntary basis with his wife Angela.

He refuses to be discouraged by negative remarks and says he intends to continue campaigning against knives until carrying one “becomes as socially unacceptable as smoking in cars with children.”

“In the Bible, it refers to people who live by the sword, end up dying the by the word, and the same applies in 2014,” added Smith, a born-again Christian.

“Carrying a weapon does not save a life, it takes a life.”

Smith, who launched Word 4 Weapons in 2007, says up to 10,000 knives have been handed in, mostly in the 25 weapons bins set up across London, where he is planning to install another nine this year.

Jaddoo speaking at a community meeting held in Ladywood said that it was important not to stigmatise young people.

He said: “It is not all about young people and knife bins alone are not going to solve knife crime.

PROCESS

“There needs to be a complete education process around knife crime - among community groups, faiths and schools too, where some head teachers have been known to bury their heads in the sand and say it is not a problem in their school.”

Alison Cope, the mother of Joshua Ribera, a rising rap star who was stabbed to death in Birmingham last September, was also at the meeting but said she had felt disrespected by the police and organisers of the knife bins campaign for not including her family in the initial campaign.

However, she said that her presence at the meeting meant that she was still prepared to be involved in the project. Her 18-year-old son Joshua, also known as Depzman, was an emerging talent in the rap and grime scene. He was stabbed through the heart while attending a fundraiser in Selly Oak at a tribute event for his murdered friend Kyle Sheehan who died a year earlier.

She said: “Knives are the consequences of people’s lack of morals. They need to feel important and turn to knives rather than engaging in other activities. My son had no weapon – he did not die with the sword, he was stabbed by someone with low self-esteem.”

Superintendent Richard Baker, of West Midlands Police said knife surrender bins would not solve the problem, but it was a strong start which could work if it was part of a wider strategy.

“Sixteen knives may not seem a lot, but it is potentially 16 lives saved,” he said.

Visit: www.word4weapons .co.uk

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