Knife crime UK: Bristol teenagers say knife crime is the ‘leading issue for young people’ in the city

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A group of teenagers came to City Hall to say that knife crime is the “leading issue for young people” in Bristol. Members of the Bristol City Youth Council said they had spent months working on the issue of rising knife crime, representing the voices of young people to politicians.

The youth council is made up of 29 members, aged from 11 to 18 years old, who were voted in by schools and youth groups across the city in January earlier this year. They advocate for the issues that matter to young people and spoke at a full council meeting on Tuesday, July 9.

Two youth mayors led the council until recently, when members decided to scrap the role of mayors, and replace them with three community leads spread across different parts of the city. Campaigning on a range of issues including knife crime, the youth council raises awareness of how problems facing Bristol affect young people.

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Binta, one youth councillor, said: “The topic of knife crime was chosen by the young people of Bristol as many places have been hit massively with the increase of knife-related violence. The knife crime group aims to help raise awareness of this issue, working with decision-makers and higher authorities. They hope to do this by holding events like sponsored silences to help raise money for the cause.

“The prevention, education and welfare group is focusing on how to educate young people on how to prevent and recognise unsafe situations. This includes working in schools to help find out what support there is for young people in regards to mental health and safety. This group is all about addressing the root causes of knife crime.”

Another group focuses on working with the police about their plans to tackle knife crime, as well as building trust between officers and young people. Area forums are held in three parts of Bristol three times a year, which young people attend to share their views with youth councillors.

Nina, another youth councillor, added: “Some of the issues that came up from our latest area youth forums in June were knife crime and safety, specific areas where some young people feel unsafe, shoplifting and the effects on communities, being made to feel like criminals in certain shops, age discrimination, the need for more lighting in certain areas, lack of activities and youth provision, and racial profiling by security guards.”

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Knife crime will be high up the agenda of two of the new policy committees at Bristol City Council. Both the children and young people committee and the public health and communities committee have plans on their schedule to discuss the growing issue and seek solutions. One Labour councillor said that urgent investment is needed in youth clubs.

Labour Councillor Louis Martin, who represents Frome Vale, said: “Our ward lacks a dedicated youth centre that can be so important for teenagers’ development. This provision could be the difference between our young people having experiences that set them up positively for life, and those that set them up to fail.

“This year a teenager from my ward was involved in a stabbing and charged with attempted murder. This heartbreaking and avoidable event, one of many, underscores the urgent need for further investment in youth services, and I’m committed to working with parents, community groups and policing to prevent further tragedies.”