Knives and Ladders: Police Now officer in West Mercia uses creative techniques to tackle knife crime
Friday 27 May 2022
Police Constable Safi Patel has drawn on his personal and professional experience to engage with young people in Redditch, taking part in the national Operation Sceptre (16th – 22nd May) and creating a game – ‘knives and ladders’ – to educate school children on the dangers and consequences of knife crime.
PC Safi Patel, who joined West Mercia Police last year via Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme, said: “The aim of the game, ‘knives and ladders’, is to get school children to think about the long-term effects and consequences of knife crime and how it can affect your whole life. The game encourages young people to value the little things in life that make us happy and consider the emotional, personal and legal consequences of knife crime. Knife crime prevents us from ‘climbing the ladder’ and achieving our goals, whatever they may be.”
The game, ‘knives and ladders’, parallels the classic childhood game ‘snakes and ladders.’
As children move across the board they can progress by landing on squares such as ‘enjoying a cup of tea with your parents’ or ‘milestone moment, you have got your first job’, but they move back down the board when they land on the knives. The board also includes phrases such as ‘you are someone’s reason to smile, don’t forget that’ and ‘for carrying a knife in a public place or on school premises, the maximum penalty if convicted is four years in prison.’
PC Patel, who is stationed in the Redditch Safer Neighbourhoods Team, also utilised the skills from his Digital Media degree to create a free digital dice app that can be downloaded alongside the game. He has been visiting schools across Redditch to deliver educational talks and interactive sessions, drawing on his previous experience as a teaching assistant primarily working with children with autism and children from deprived backgrounds.
As part of Operation Sceptre, a nation-wide operation led by the Home Office to combat knife crime across the UK, PC Patel has also been taking part in knife sweeps and patrols across Redditch. He has been working with a local boxing club to arrange drop-in sessions for those wishing to speak to their local officers, using the opportunity to introduce people to sports and break down barriers between the police and the public.
He said: “I really enjoy boxing and was recently practicing with a young man at the local club. After our session he said that he used to be in trouble with the police a lot and never thought he’d be able to positively engage with police officers, but the simple act of practicing boxing together broke down that barrier. He said that boxing had helped him build his personal confidence and discipline and that, after our conversations, he felt much safer knowing we were helping to keep the community safe.
“I grew up in a neighbourhood with crime on my doorstep, so it’s not the first time I have experienced knife crime in a community. A young man I used to play football with became a victim of knife crime when we were growing up, losing his life far too early and just as his own entrepreneur work was really taking off. It was partly this experience that drew me to policing as a career. I wanted to help people and really make a difference, and to prevent others losing their lives to violent crime.
“I have worked in McDonalds, in a cinema, in a barbers, as an employment coach and in schools but neighbourhood policing really gives me a sense of purpose. I’ve drawn on all my previous experience, both from work and from my own upbringing, to drive change and protect members of the community.”
Inspector Lee Page, who works alongside PC Patel on the Safer Neighbourhoods Team in Redditch, said: “Knife crime is affecting communities across the country and Redditch is no exception. Early intervention and prevention are key to tackling the root causes of why young people are drawn into carrying knives in the first place and we need innovative approaches as part of these efforts.
“It’s great to see PC Patel using some of his previous experiences and skills as part of the Police Now programme to make a positive difference to young people in our town.”