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'Shocking' knife angel on the move

A TRAGIC REMINDER: The Knife Angel, which has been on display in Birmingham City Centre,
is moving on from the city after four weeks

A NEAR 30-FOOT sculpture made from more than 100,000 knives has been on display in Birmingham city centre serving as a poignant reminder of the spiralling levels of knife crime across the West Midlands.

The Knife Angel, set to leave Victoria Square this week and embark on the next leg of a tour of the country, was brought to the city by the local council and the West Midlands Police and Crime Commission for four weeks to stand as a physical reminder of the effects of violence and aggression. The Home Office granted the British Ironwork Centre with permission to collect weapons from knife bins across the country. It took four years to build the Knife Angel.

RELEASE
The statue – which has previously visited Coventry, Hull and Liverpool – arrived in Birmingham following the release of Government figures which showed knife crime in the West Midlands rose by 17 per cent year-on-year between 2017 and 2018.

These figures form part of a trend: the regional police force area has seen total recorded crime rise by 11 per cent, compared to a seven per cent rise across England and Wales.

The Knife Angel has become a focal point for passers-by: commonly stopping to read the inscriptions around its base, even to adorn it with photographs and flowers of those who have fallen victim to violent crime in recent times.

“I have really been taken aback by the Knife Angel,” said student Howie Mbotu, 20, at the scene.

“When I heard it was coming I had to come down and see it for myself.

"Seeing the [number] of knives that it is made up of reminds us of how much damage, pain and suffering has been committed on our streets recently.


FOCAL POINT: Passersby frequently stop to take a closer look at the monument

“Now that the Angel is being taken down, I hope that the focus on dealing with this issue doesn’t go away and that the authorities are not waiting for more people to be injured and killed before they take real action to keep our streets safe.”

Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Ten Birmingham lives – five of them teenagers – have been brutally lost as a result of knife crime in the last 12 months. That’s 10 families left devastated by the loss of a loved one and 10 communities left mourning and in fear.

“The tragic truth is that if we don’t address this national crisis, people will continue to die. We all have a part to play in tackling knife crime – the government, councils, the police, communities, schools and individuals.

CRISIS
“Together we have to understand what is driving this crisis and we must understand and address why young people are choosing to carry knives.” This call to action was echoed by Ashley Bertie, the Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner, who has called for a change in approach from the government on police funding.

Bertie took part in a six– day ‘pilgrimage protest,’ walking with a cross made of 200 knives from Birmingham to Parliament Square during the Easter period.

He told the media: “Statistics show crime is continuing to rise in the West Midlands and across England and Wales.

“This further emphasises the need for a long-term funding solution for police forces, which we have been consistently campaigning on.

“These statistics should be a wake-up call for the government to ensure they give policing the funding it needs.

“I continue to have concerns about the increase in violent crime which has risen significantly in the West Midlands.

“That is why we are investing £2 million to tackle the root causes of violent crime, rolling out youth workers into A&E departments and investing in schemes to divert young people away from crime.


CLOSE UP: The sculpture is made from more than 100,000 knives

“We are doing all we can to drive efficiencies. We are cutting down on bureaucracy and giving officers the technology to do their job on the move, so they don’t have to come back to a police building unnecessarily. These efficiencies are helping officers spend more time tackling crime.”

The Commission’s new tactic in the fight against violent crime – installing youth workers in accident and emergency departments in hospitals in Coventry and Wolverhampton – will see teams of professionals, well-versed in working amongst issues that can deteriorate into violence, working alongside clinical staff to identify those who might be caught up in a criminal cycle. The initiative will offer tailored support for people aged 25 and under.

PILOT

Medical staff will alert the youth workers to victims of serious youth violence, sexual violence or abuse who are admitted to hospital. The scheme will serve as a pilot, which if deemed successful over the initial 12 month period, could be continued and extended into other areas of the region.

The St Giles Trust charity will support young people to help keep them away from violence or exploitation, either as a victim or a perpetrator.

Steve Clarke, a spokesperson for the Trust said. “Our service in A&E departments will give us an opportunity to engage with those individuals in their hour of need and our youth workers will be on hand to offer tailored support to lead them away from the violence that caused them to end up in hospital.”

Knife crime in the West Midlands has risen 85 per cent since 2012, and the alarming surge has been described as a ‘national emergency’ by crime prevention officials.

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