Public Sector: Stabbings up despite police drive

Doubts raised about national initiative as survey reveals increase in knife-related deaths.

The value of behaviour change campaigns focused on knife crime has been called into question as it emerged that the number of knife- related deaths in targeted areas has increased.

The Home Office released a report on the first phase of its Tackling Knives Action Programme (TKAP) last week. It revealed that there was no change in the number of teenagers killed with knives in the campaign's target areas, and a slight increase in victims aged 20 and over. The figures cover the period from June 2008 to March 2009.

The TKAP is a Home Office-led initiative to reduce the number of people carrying knives, related homicides and serious stabbings among teenagers. It was implemented in ten police-force areas including London, West Midlands and Greater Manchester.

The period of the report coincides with the Home Office's 'It Doesn't Have to Happen' campaign, led by Forster. Forster was paid £250,000 to run the account between October 2008 and March 2009. It put together a series of 'tailored interventions' to engage vulnerable young people directly with the anti-knife crime message.

But the Home Office has defended the campaign. It said: 'The campaign, which was designed by young people for young people, has had very encouraging results since it launched last year. Eighty-one per cent said the adverts made them more aware of the risks associated with carrying a knife, 61 per cent agreed the adverts told them something they didn't know and most importantly, 73 per cent of young people said the adverts made them less likely to carry a knife in the future.'

Also, Uproar Communications has received £100,000 for a three-year campaign to bring together 18 teenagers from around the country to develop ideas for advertising.

Uproar PR director Sam Brown said: 'What we're doing is about changing young people's mindsets. We need to understand why young people are carrying knives and to use PR and marketing to turn that around. We know that's a long journey. These figures could be perceived as a setback, but we need to look at the long-term journey - this is about mindset change.'

In June, the focus shifted to Kindred, which was appointed by the Home Office to handle the partnership marketing activity for the campaign. The agency is looking to get commercial partners on board from August 2009 and will handle the recruitment and negotiation process.

HOW I SEE IT - Mavis Amankwah, MD, Rich Visions

Researching and having an understanding of all the audiences you are trying to engage is vital in any campaign, and PR is just a drop in the ocean when tackling knife crime.

Firstly the Government needs to have a clear understanding of the audiences it is targeting. Over the years we have seen the demand and impact of non-traditional PR activity such as outreach and field promotion.

If the Government worked more closely with specialist agencies, faith, voluntary and community leaders, it would have a better chance of tackling knife crime.

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