Breaking Barriers Building Bridges

By Yee Liu Williams

Yee Liu Williams

Breaking Barriers Building Bridges’ (4Bs) walk the streets of Nottingham city centre and encourage young people to #droptheknife.

Nottingham has decided to use a vigilante Chicago-style model to deal with young people at risk of knife crime in the city centre.

Youth workers, from Breaking Barriers Building Bridges (4Bs) alias ‘violence interrupters’ are being deployed at key meeting places in the centre of the City in the Victoria Shopping Centre and Clumber Street.

Maxine Cockett, co-founder of Breaking Barriers says: ‘There are no youth centres in these areas. So youth will congregate on the streets and that becomes their new youth centre.’

Breaking Barriers Building Bridges was awarded central funding from the Home Office and administrated by Nottingham Forest Community Trust.

The team of youth workers has interacted with over 500 young people aged between 14 and 19 since the scheme went live in March.

On three occasions they stepped in to ‘stop altercations’ escalating into serious violence in the city centre.

They have also intervened with 15 people known to be knife carriers and worked with 10 young people who constantly hang around Asda in Front Street, Arnold.

Once they step in to stop violence erupting, 4Bs offer a full package of support to young people, – offering youth activities and directing them to football, boxing classes as well as support services.

Adhi Scott, co-founder, adds: ‘When we ask them ‘why they carry knives?’ They say ‘fear’ and don’t feel safe on the streets.

The team from 4Bs youth workers are in a good position to understand complex situation and prevent violence from erupting.

In recent weeks, Paul Gutteridge, National Director of Initiatives of Change UK visited 4Bs to discuss ways of developing IofC’s partnership and outreach work on knife crime. He says: ‘Any project which engages young people on the streets, in the places where conflict is most likely to arise, will have a powerful impact. The need for trust building and understanding the real issues is critical.’

They are able to support young people and provide them with support and counselling on one-to-one with the young person, including sitting down with them for a cup of coffee in a city-based location that is non-confrontational or police-led.

The team of youth workers is on the streets every day, as soon as young people come out of school and college at 3pm. They also work at the weekends; Fridays and Saturdays, 7-9pm they are in Arnold Town Centre. Youth typically hang out at fast food restaurants, trainer outlets, and fashion shops.

Knife crime has risen by 11 percent, with 880 incidents last year. The majority of people carrying a knife in Nottinghamshire are aged between 14 to 24.

Nottingham Police have said: ‘We were seeing incident after incident after incident because we have not been able to disrupt that violence, so that is why we are doing it.’

The trial project called the Violence Interrupter Programme will run until mid-April, and if it starts to work, they will be looking to see if they can roll it out on a permanent basis.

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