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28 January 2015, 15:27 | Updated: 28 January 2015, 15:36
A knife amnesty has been launched in north Essex, to try to cut down on knife crime and to make our streets safer.
Only Cowards Carry - a charity set up following the death of teenager Jay Whiston - has been working with Essex Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner and local councils to set up the new banks in Colchester and Clacton. 17 year old Jay was from Clacton, and was stabbed at a houseparty in Colchester in September 2012.
Specially designed knife bins have been donated by the British Ironwork Centre, so bladed items can be handed in safely as part of the amnesty. It follows an amnesty trial last summer in Tendring, during which over 400 bladed items were handed in.
CEO of Only Cowards Carry Caroline Shearer told Heart: "This is great as we now have a place to put weapons of all sorts safely away. These things all kill if they're left around.
"I'm delighted that all the hard work of the Only Cowards Carry team and Essex Police during the knife amnesty trial has now resulted in the introduction of knife amnesty bins in both Tendring and Colchester. It's essential that we continue to do everything we can to tackle the evil of knife crime and make people aware of the consequences of carrying a knife.
"Only Cowards Carry is tremendously grateful to British Ironworks Centre for providing specially designed knife amnesty bins free of charge, and to Essex Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Community Safety Partnerships in Tendring and Colchester for their help. We're also working to see if we can spread the knife amnesty initiative to other parts of Essex to help keep our streets safe. We have additional knife bins available, and we're hopeful that we can expand the initiative to Chelmsford and Basildon in the near future."
Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: "I have nothing but praise for all the efforts that Caroline has put in to help get these bins and I am also grateful for the support of the Police and Crime Commissioner and local authorities for this initiative. The harm that knife crime causes to our communities in Essex as a whole, and the devastation it can cause to families affected by it, is something that I am determined we will deal with.
"The trial amnesty in Clacton has proved incredibly effective in removing knives from our streets and every weapon taken out of circulation is one fewer that can end up in the wrong hands. These bins will form just one element of our approach to tackling knife crime.
"My officers are also taking a zero tolerance approach to anyone found to be illegally in possession of a knife on the streets. We are continually developing intelligence on any locations where knife crime is likely to occur and carrying out stop and search operations in those areas and we will support prosecutions to help keep our streets safe for young people.
"I am sure this approach, together with our efforts, and those of our partners, to educate people about the dangers of carrying these lethal weapons will have positive results."
The knife amnesty has the full backing of Police and Crime Commissioner, Nick Alston, who said: "The amnesty will provide a means for people to dispose of weapons safely, and also raises awareness of the dangers of carrying knives. I welcome its introduction, but it's essential that we continue to strive to change attitudes so that people would never consider using knives to injure another person and so would never carry a knife in the first place.
"I remain a strong supporter of the work of Only Cowards Carry and everyone who strives to educate young people about knife crime. We need both education and enforcement."
Cllr Tim Young, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety for Colchester Borough Council, said: "We're delighted that the amnesty is coming to Colchester, as it has proved to be a real success previously in Tendring. We will support the police as much as possible throughout their initiatives to reduce crime and raise awareness of carrying weapons. Hopefully the knife amnesty can encourage people across the borough to dispose of their weapons safely."
Anyone who wants to surrender a knife should make sure it is fully wrapped up and placed in a secure container before bringing it to the amnesty bins.
If you're unsure about whether to bring in a knife you can contact Essex Police on 101 for advice.