Anti-violence group threatens to leave borough

Binning Knives Saves Lives volunteers try to persuade residents to drop any knives they have into their 'amnesty bin' – they say they have collected more than 1,000 knives to date
Binning Knives Saves Lives volunteers try to persuade residents to drop any knives they have into their ‘amnesty bin’ – they say they have collected more than 1,000 knives to date

Binning Knives Saves Lives campaigners remain frustrated with council, reports James Cracknell

A grassroots anti-violence campaign that has persuaded residents to give up hundreds of knives is threatening to leave the borough – because of a lack of support from Waltham Forest Council.

Binning Knives Saves Lives (BKSL) was launched in May 2019 and quickly amassed a following locally, with volunteers asking residents to give up their knives by placing them in a large wheelie bin. The organisation is led by Leytonstone motorbike dealer Courtney Barrett, who says the group has won praise from local police officers, but that a lack of support from the council may force them to move elsewhere.

The Echo reported last year that the council had issued BKSL with fixed penalty notices for erecting banners. Now Courtney says he has struck up potential partnerships with other London boroughs including Redbridge and Havering, which could become the new focus of the campaign.

“The council has gone to extraordinary lengths to try and stop BKSL operating,” Courtney told the Echo. “This has proved detrimental to the safety of Waltham Forests residents, as BKSL cannot operate to its maximum potential.

“BKSL is desperately wanted in many areas nationwide, but strangely not by Waltham Forest Council. This is making residents question what the council’s priorities actually are. The council claims to have spent £2.2million last year on reducing knife crime in the borough, so residents are continually questioning where the money’s spent, and why there are no meaningful results.”

The latest data from the Metropolitan Police shows that knife crime offences fell by 23% in Waltham Forest between April 2019 and March 2020, compared to a smaller 13% drop across London. Courtney believes BKSL had been a big factor behind the fall in knife crime. “This is an amazing achievement, which police and many other agencies nationally are totally impressed with, so why is the council trying to stop a community organisation from taking knives out of circulation?”

Ahsan Khan, the council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “In November 2018 we launched the violence reduction partnership (VRP) that sees the council work closely with partners including police, teachers, charities, housing associations and community groups, to identify opportunities for early intervention and tackle the factors that cause some young people to become exploited by criminal gangs. Over 50 local community organisations are part of the VRP and it has helped 30 projects get off the ground.

“It is partly thanks to the efforts of the VRP that we saw a 28% reduction in knife crime offences between November 2018 and August 2020. We had the highest number of joint operations with police partners in London and have also seen an almost 20% reduction in persistent absence in our schools. We are not just tackling incidents of violence but are working to address its root causes.”

Binning Knives Saves Lives is planning a special event at 2.30pm on Saturday 19th December, in Walthamstow Town Square, to remember Jaden Moodie and Joseph Cullimore – local residents both stabbed to death.