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Walking to fight crime

A SYMBOL OF UNITY: The knife cross, above, was unveiled outside the church in Kingstanding; below left, the church’s Rev Andrew Brazier and Ashley Bertie, left, were there for the ceremony

Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands leads ‘pilgrimage protest’ in order to highlight plight of youth grappling with the issue of violent crime

ASHLEY BERTIE, the Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner in the West Midlands, has embarked on the first leg of a six-day, 114-mile walk to the Houses of Parliament to draw attention to the issue of knife crime.

He was joined by members from Birmingham Kingstanding Methodist Church among 20 other places of worship. The walk, dubbed locally as a ‘pilgrimage protest,’ took place on Monday April 15. People walked past a cross designed by local welders using 200 knives that have been confiscated or handed in to West Midlands Police.

RESONATE

Intended to resonate with the crucifix Christians will be focusing on at Easter time, the eye-catching cross will be put on display along the route and will also be paraded in Parliament Square, London.

The route will begin in the Kingstanding area of Birmingham and will proceed through Kenilworth and Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, before heading to Milton Keynes and Watford, stopping in near 20 mile intervals.

Bertie told the media: “The march to London is another example where the people of the West Midlands are standing up and telling MPs how important the issue of violent crime is to them.”

Bertie, whose role was created after the departure of the former Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Yvonne Mosquito, now the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, continued: “I, for one, back this campaign and hope it helps keep the pressure up on members of parliament to treat the issue with the utmost importance.

“Lives are being lost and we can’t wait any longer for action to be taken.”

Three teenagers have been stabbed in Birmingham alone in a 12-day period recently as incidences of knife crime in the region continue to rise, by 85 per cent over the last seven years, and by 20 percent during the last year. Some have linked this to the reduction in near-2,000 reduction in of cer numbers since the last general election.

Kingstanding Methodist Church’s Reverend Andrew Brazier, who organised the walk, told the media: “Children are not born wanting to stab one another – we teach them. This walk is intended to be a sign of hope and empowerment.

“We are asking for better youth work, support for our local police, and a concerted effort to create a culture of hope. Asking young people not to carry knives is a good start – but we’d like to see a society in which they didn’t feel they needed to.

CREATIVE

“The cross is adorned with banners, pendants and the collective creative efforts of our knitters, paper folders, carpenters, welders and crafty souls. Of course, not everyone will want to– or be able to–walk the whole thing.

“We’ll have people who’ll cover short sections, others who might wish to walk for several days - and one or two who might want to attempt the whole route. From then on it will be rinse and repeat until we reach London. Our message is simple and blunt: Knife crime kills, and that something can be done about it.

“We will be calling for better youth work, policing and a campaign to encourage young people to stop carrying knives. Our communities will not be forgotten or ignored.”

The Muslim Council of Britain was among the community groups that joined the walk, which arrived in London on April 20.

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