A major campaign to curb the rising tide of knife crime in Sheffield is ready to enter its next stage – but help is needed to secure the funding.
Don’t Be A Tool was launched by two fathers who were appalled by the escalation in violent crime on the city’s streets, where there have been at least 22 knife attacks this year, leaving five people dead.
They want to train volunteers to become ‘positive activity leaders’ or PALs, who will be tasked with raising awareness within their communities of the dangers of carrying knives, and helping young people to stay safe and fulfil their potential.
There has been no shortage of interest but campaign founders Andy Gibb and James Swallow-Gaunt have now launched a crowdfunding appeal to raise the £7,500 needed to train the first 20 PALs in Hillsbrough, Southey, Parson Cross, Longley and Firth Park.
Launching the appeal, the duo said: “PALs are people from Sheffield who work with families, local communities and young people and adults at risk of being involved with anti-social behaviour, youth crime, knife and gun crime and offences relating to drugs.
“PALs have been created for Sheffield by Sheffield, and your donation will go towards giving a PAL the training they need to engage with the hard-to-reach in their own communities.”
The training will include lessons on how to teach basic self-defence skills, designed to help people to get away if they find themselves in danger.
The campaign’s founders decided a new approach was needed as existing tactics to tackle knife crime weren’t working.
They believe young people are more likely to heed the message if it comes from someone they can relate to and is delivered alongside opportunities to learn new skills and further their career prospects.
Young ambassadors are also being sought to work alongside the new leaders and help shape the activities provided for the city's youths.
The first Don’t Be A Tool workshop is due to take place next month, and supporters plan to walk from Sheffield to Leeds this October to publicise the initiative which it is hoped will eventually be rolled out nationwide.