By Stacey Smith | @Ohsostacey_ | Images by Stacey Smith (@Ohsostacey_) and Alfie Bradley (@alfiebradleyart)
Knife crime is increasing at a staggering rate in the UK- with a stabbing happen every 8 minutes on the streets. It is the UK’s biggest crime, with over 40,000 reports of stabbings in 2018. But how can we help protect people from this crime? How can we stop more people getting sucked into this crime?
Like so many of us, Alfie Bradley became acutely aware of how bad knife crime was getting around six years ago, with increasing press coverage highlighting the vast extent of the problem. Alfie’s career as a sculptor was taking off, having worked with Uri Geller and the BBC on giant gorilla made of spoons, and he was looking for a new project. “Some of my friends and family were saying and asking, are you just going to use cutlery to do all your stuff?” And I was like no, no no no”, he laughs. “But all of a sudden knife crime seemed to just be on the news all the time so I thought “hang on a second – why couldn’t I use the knives to try and create something big?” Alfie would spend the next two years creating one of the UK’s biggest peace sculptures. “I wanted it to be twice the size of my last piece because the bigger the size, the bigger the impact”, he explains.
Alfie certainly wasn’t the only one alarmed by the rapid growth of knife crime. From a source by the Ministry of Justice (2019), the ages between 10 to 17 make up roughly 20% of those cautioned or convicted of knife offences. In 2021, 17 teenagers had been killed in London; 15 of those fell victims to the deadly blades. Following this, Handsworth Community Action Group (2019) released a statement revealing “every 9 days, a teenager in the UK is stabbed.” How shocking is that?! If at least one teenager is stabbed every 9 days, then that is at least 40 teenagers that are getting stabbed a year!
“Every 9 days, a teenager is stabbed…”Handsworth Community Action Group
Since the huge increase in knife crime, many people have a turned to carrying “self-defence” weapons with them whenever they leave their homes. This includes carrying their own blades. But statistics show that you are much more at risk if you carry your own weapon.The Wirral Safeguarding Children Partnership stated that “65% of people who carry a knife on them will more likely have their own weapon used against them.”
Clearly, it’s vital to educate young people on the dangers and consequences of carrying a knife. And that’s where Alfie’s finished sculpture, “The Knife Angel,” comes in. Talking about his creation before making it a reality, Alfie says “I think it’s really symbolic having an angel as so many lives were lost through knife crime.” The angel stands 27 foot high, holding its hands out in front of it. It is asking why: why is knife crime growing rapidly in the UK, and why do people fall into this? Why are so many people getting hurt through knife crime?
The angel itself also has a personal connection to its creator. The face of the angel is a mix of Alfie’s great grandad, grandad, dad and two younger brothers. The features in the face of the angel are a mix of his family, making it an even more special piece. Alfie calls the Knife Angel one of “the most powerful things I could’ve done.”
“I think it’s really symbolic having an age as so many lives were lost through knife crime.”Alfie Bradley
With teenagers becoming more involved with knife crime, should schools be addressing this more? From a survey taken in July 2019, 10- to 15 year-olds in England and Wales were asked ‘the location of violent crimes experienced.’ The figures show that 85% of violent crimes occured in or around schools, compared to 6% that occured in parks or open spaces.
Looking closely at what makes more young people become involved in knife crime, peer pressure is the biggest factor. Social media plays a huge part of this, and others use it to their advantage. Drug dealers and violent gang members manipulate young teenagers into falling into this trap and now, more teenagers are involved in knife crime.
As Alfie built the angel, he didn’t realise how much it would affect him at a time. His sculptures often take a lot of physical effort, but this time the toll was more of a mental one. At the time, Alfie blanked all of the emotions out as he worked hard on his sculpture, and it was only a few years later when it all hit him. “The hardest part building it was meeting all the families that had lost someone or had suffered through knife crime. It’s all those details you don’t necessarily think about until you’re involved in it.”
65% of people who carry a knife will more likely have their own weapon used against them.
A school is supposed to be a safe zone for young people gaining an education. You go to school to learn, socialise and to find your next steps into the future. And now students are finding themselves looking over their shoulders in fear of something happening. What is happening in terms of actions taking place? Are schools addressing knife crime enough, and if a student is threatened by a knife, are they taking the right actions and consequences?
With the skyrocketing increase in knife crime cases, schools should be educating students on this. They should be telling young students to be safe when they’re out and informing them what knife crime can do to people. More and more people are getting hurt and losing their lives to knives. They should be helping to keep their students and the people around them safe. With this in mind, after taking a sample of 14-year-olds and asking them if they carried knives, 3.47% claimed they did. From this, 71.3% of these were boys. If you are caught carrying a blade, the punishment received could be four years imprisonment or a fine. Using the weapon could make these charges much higher.
To begin with, Alfie didn’t know what the public response would be like towards the Knife Angel, but it has been overwhelmingly positive. “I am amazed by all the great responses. People are 100% behind the angel,” he enthuses. From the worries of him creating something quite sensitive, to then seeing the public supporting his work made Alfie really proud. He had created something so moving.
Predicting the future of the Knife Angel, Alfie hopes that it will continue to tour the UK and even make a move around Europe. “I hope it continues to tour and keeps educating people,” he says. Originally, the angel was only going to go to big places where people could see it, but other towns and cities reached out asking for it. This soon started the tour of the Knife Angel. Since then, the angel has been travelling around the UK, hitting its twentieth city this month. Even Paris has requested to have the Knife Angel set up there for a month. It seems that the Knife Angel is bringing so much good to the world that there is a bright future ahead of it.
But what else can we do to help stop knife crime taking over our lives any longer? In 2018, the anti-knife crime campaign was launched. This was aimed at people aged 10 to 21 to spread awareness around knife crime and to inform them to stay safe. The £1.35 million campaign was advertised across all social media platforms and plastered over cities which had the most offences of knife crime. The campaign consists of shared true stories from other young people who have been a victim or had been involved in knife crime in some way.
Schools also have a vital role to play here. Ultimately, school is where we can educate young people. The government needs to ensure that knife crime and its dangers are a key part of the curriculum.
When I was 14 years old, I was almost hurt by a blade myself, something which left me traumatised and that I am only now recovering from. At this point in my life, I’d never felt more afraid or more isolated. This is why I feel so strongly that we should all come together and do something about knife crime. By increasing police patrols, educating others on crime, we could make a huge change in our world. The more people who talk about it, then something will happen. We can all come together to help protect our loved ones from the blades.
Too many people have lost their lives to it, why should more suffer too? We shouldn’t be living in a constant fear that something terrible is about to happen. We want to feel free and safe once again.