Former Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Sir Francis Habgood reflects on his experience of visiting the knife angel with Action4Youth’s The Breakout Programme.
How do you generate a serious debate about knife crime? Simple – build a massive sculpture using over 100,000 knives and send it on a tour around the country.
That was why I was standing outside Milton Keynes stadium looking up at the Knife Angel whilst talking to a father whose son had been stabbed and killed in MK only a few years ago. He was determined to make a difference and ensure that others did not experience the pain and loss that he had been through. They had been regular supporters of MK Dons so his return to the stadium to see the Angel was especially difficult.
A group of young people on Action4Youth’s Breakout programme then joined us and, when they heard the father’s story, they started to realise the significance of the statute. Their initial humour turned to quieter reflection.
Representatives from businesses that support Action4Youth were also there – it was a great opportunity for them to see first-hand the difference that their financial support makes to young people. If just one person’s life is positively changed by the Breakout programme then it will be a success – and I am convinced that helping young people to make healthy choices is an investment worth making.
During my career in policing and safeguarding I have seen too many people’s lives ruined by knife crime – the impact of a few seconds will last a lifetime. The Knife Angel’s journey across the UK is intended to stimulate a debate about knife crime and act as a memorial for those who have been personally affected – some of the knives are engraved with the names of lost loved ones. It is certainly an impressive structure as it towers up in the sky – but the real impact is the thoughts that it invokes as you look at the angel’s face. It’s haunting look simply says ‘Why?’ – and that is a great place to start the debate….