Knife campaign could launch nationwide

Binning Knives Saves Lives volunteers (including Courtney Barrett, fourth from right) have become a familiar sight on the streets of Waltham Forest
Binning Knives Saves Lives volunteers (including Courtney Barrett, fourth from right) have become a familiar sight on the streets of Waltham Forest

Success of ‘Binning Knives Saves Lives’ inspiring other knife amnesty campaigns across UK, reports James Cracknell

The founder of a local anti-violence campaign that has taken more than 500 knives off the streets this year says he wants to replicate it across the UK.

Leytonstone motorbike seller Courtney Barrett set up Binning Knives Saves Lives in spring and has since become a familiar face around the borough and beyond as he and his team of volunteers wheel around their knife amnesty bin.

“Everything I do I put my heart and soul into,” Courtney told the Echo. “When we started we were campaigning for more police, but then we decided not to be political about it and instead just focus on taking knives off the streets.

“Everyone just talks and talks about this problem but we wanted to take it into our own hands and do something that would make a difference right now. We were on ITV News and it has been non-stop since then really, I hadn’t really had time to think about it.

“Now I am thinking about how we could take this nationwide. You only need seven or eight people in each area to get it up and running. Yesterday I had a lady from Liverpool come down to find out what we’re doing.”

To date the campaign has received very little funding, with only a vape shop in Tottenham sponsoring them so far and other people volunteering their time to help with promotion by leafleting around the borough. But Courtney is now in talks with a company that wants to help him roll out the campaign in every London borough.

A friend of Courtney’s, who sometimes joins him at his fortnightly knife amnesty events, suffered 47 stab wounds in a single attack and needed hospital treatment for a year. One question that Courtney often gets asked is how he and his team manage to persuade so many young people to give up their knives. “You have to be genuine,” he says. “You have to show you care. If PC plod comes along it won’t work, they need to have respect for you. I can talk their language and relate to them.”

The total number of knife offences in London recently hit a new high, with more than 15,000 recorded in a single year, although the number of stabbings has now begun to fall. Among the 131 people killed in London so far this year was 14-year-old Jaden Moodie, stabbed to death in Leyton last January.

Courtney plans to make a statue using the knives his team has collected. He originally wanted to melt them down to make it, but this idea proved difficult and he instead now plans to encase the knives in concrete as part of the statue’s base. It is being designed by sculptor Tolleck Winner and should be ready to unveil next summer.

Another goal is to open a youth centre, something for which the volunteers help to raise money during their fortnightly knife amnesty events. Courtney believes the lack of safe spaces for young people to socialise is one of the main drivers of knife crime.

For all the campaign’s success so far, a continual source of frustration is Waltham Forest Council. Courtney claims the authority has tried to “block” them by issuing penalty notices for erecting Binning Knives Saves Lives banners – one was even stolen last month.

“They hate us because we have embarrassed them,” says Courtney. “They are wasting money on festivals while there is nothing happening with violent crime.”

A council spokesperson said: “We take fly-posting very seriously. Anyone seeking to place banners or adverts around the borough needs to apply for consent. The banners at Beaumont Estate in Leyton were erected without permission and removed.

“Waltham Forest Council has increased funding by an additional £800,000 over the next four years, on top of the £2.2million already allocated, for our gang prevention programme to keep young people away from the gang lifestyle and reduce knife crime.”

For more information about the Binning Knives Saves Lives campaign: