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Papers launch campaign to stamp out knife crime

Two weekly newspapers have launched a campaign which aims to stamp out knife crime across their areas after a 17-year-old was stabbed to death.

The Clacton Gazette and Harwich and Manningtree Standard have started a Lives Not Knives initiative to raise awareness of the consequences of knife crime.

The campaign was launched after the death of 17-year-old Jay Whiston last month, who was stabbed outside a house party last month, and the death of young dad Liam Mearns last December, who was stabbed during a disturbance in Clacton.

Jay’s mother, Caroline Shearer, has backed the drive and said young people should be taught in school about the dangers of carrying weapons.

She said: “It is time we tell our kids that only cowards carry weapons. I want to get into schools and take the time to make other kids aware.

“This is why your campaign is important and where we should be concentrating it.”

The campaign has also been backed by Labour’s Deputy Leader Harriet Harman and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls.

Editor Andrew Bennett said: “Clacton and the surrounding communities have been rocked by knife crime in the past year, most recently by the fatal stabbing of student Jay Whiston.

“The victims are not known criminals or drug dealers. Carrying knives has become a tribal accessory for many young people – add alcohol and adrenaline to the mix and it can end tragically.

“Our campaign is designed to highlight the real-life dangers of owning these weapons and to dispel the myth that knives are either macho or cool.”

In an article to launch the campaign, the Gazette said it aimed to “drive the scourge of knives from our streets” after knife-related violence in local communities, which had destroyed lives.

It said: “We don’t pretend to have a magic wand which will suddenly wipe this menace from our streets. But that does not mean we are powerless to act.

“We believe raising awareness of the horrific consequences of knife crime will make people think twice before going out armed with a potentially lethal weapon.

“Some may stupidly think carrying knives is ‘cool’. Others may naively believe they are a legitimate means of self-defence. But it is all too easy for a knife suddenly to become a murder weapon.

“We are calling for more awareness and education to make people think twice before they take that risk. Schools and youth groups can play their part. Parents, too, must warn their children of the perils. And above all, individuals must take responsibility for their actions.

“Only when they understand the stupidity of carrying knives can we hope to see the beginning of the end of this cycle of violence.

“Only then can the families and friends of those who have already paid the ultimate price be comforted by the thought that their lives were not lost in vain.”