How the Sheffield Star hopes to end knife crime in the Steel City

By Nancy Fielder, editor, Sheffield Star

The Star launched a knife crime campaign following a spate of stabbings, aiming to pull together a range of initiatives and groups to create a city-wide approach.

The campaign logo ‘Sheffield needs you alive, drop the knife’ ran on the front page every day for two weeks. Knife crime stories, both new incidents and positive comment pieces, were given prominence in the paper and online.

The editorial team worked with a wide range of organisations to host a knife crime debate in the city centre. The panel consisted of the chief constable, police commissioner and Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community security.

Nancy Fielder, editor of the Sheffield Star

The audience included MPs, councillors, victims, youth workers, police officers, TARAs, volunteers and community groups.

The debate reached more than 30,000 people via Facebook Live and prompted hundreds of positive comments.

The most touching moments were heartrending speeches from three women who had lost their husband, son or grandson to violent crime. All three were so poignant, many in the audience were moved to tears.

Thursday’s Star included an eight-page supplement covering the biggest issues raised during the debate and many first-person pieces from people directly affected by knife crime.

It also included a two-page poster and the front page was devoted to the campaign logo. A total of 1,500 copies of the special edition were delivered into Sheffield secondary schools. They were given a very warm reception by teachers who intend to use them as an educational resource to change the mentality of pupils.

Why do it? Well perhaps the leader we ran in the paper best explains why:

More Sheffield children don’t have to lose their lives to knives — either in a coffin or a cell.

More families don’t have to have their lives destroyed and we, as a city, do not have to accept that it is ok for anyone to carry a knife.

Today we are delivering 1,500 copies of The Star into Sheffield’s secondary schools for free.

We have worked with Sheffield Safer and Sustainable Communities Partnership Board, the police and council to do this because we need action. But we don’t have all the answers.

No big institution could.

A shift in mentality can only come from the home, from families, from schools and from the amazing grassroots organisations who work in our communities with those who are most vulnerable.

You might not associate knife crime with the vulnerable.

It is vicious, heartless but it is usually terribly predictable from a young age. Often the killer could quite easily have become a victim.

Our children are being manipulated, exploited — and it is time our voices were heard louder than anyone else’s. Gangs is far too romantic a word to associate with this devastating violence on our streets.

As a city we must offer another alternative. Help those that are caught in the cycle of violence, jail those who break the law and make youngsters understand that there is another way.

In today’s special edition you will read about the real impact of knife crime from those who live with it every day because their loved ones are dead.

I hope their stories make you think, that their words are discussed in classrooms across this city.

The debate was only the first step in all of us taking responsibility. The answers will come from the youngest generation.

We need to work with them, listen to them and put their plan into action.