Young people receiving support to secure employment and reduce their risk of crime and violence shared their success stories as part of a national knife crime action week.
Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry joined Natalie Baker-Swift, Interim Head of the Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), on a visit to Switch Up to find out more about the mentoring and physical training opportunities they provide to steer young people away from harm.
The visit coincided with Operation Sceptre – a national week of action against knife crime that takes place twice a year highlighting the year-round work undertaken to protect young people from exploitation and tackle serious violence and knife crime. The initiative aims to promote conversations between parents and their children, professionals and peer groups about choices and the dangers and consequences of carrying a knife.
Switch Up – The Marcellus Baz Group works with children, young people and adults across Nottingham using tried and tested mentoring techniques to empower them to break the cycle of offending and reoffending.
The group engages young people in physical training to steer them away from gang-driven criminality and is one of a number of projects funded by the VRU to give young people a route out of crime and violence.
During the visit, Commissioner Henry and Natalie Baker-Swift met young people currently receiving mentoring support from the Switch Up team who are already turning around their lives.
Commissioner Henry said: “I was really inspired by my visit to Switch Up and the energy and positivity Marcellus and his team invest in their work. Their passion and commitment to supporting children and young people in the City and more recently, the County, is evident in everything they do - to see it first-hand was an absolute pleasure.
“Switch Up is just one of many organisations in Nottinghamshire who provide our young people a lifeline and way out of offending – often when they feel they have limited options.
“I’m really proud of what partners in the voluntary and community sector are doing to make a difference in Nottinghamshire and excited for what we can achieve together in the future.”
Natalie Baker-Swift added: “The national week of action around knife crime isn’t just about enforcement – it is an opportunity to focus the wider partners’ and communities’ minds on the opportunities around prevention and have honest conversations about the choices and consequences around carrying a knife.
“I met some incredible young people today who, against all the odds, have turned their lives around - some in a matter of weeks, from being on the street, carrying a weapon, to being welcomed into the Switch Up family where they are given a sense of belonging, hope for the future and concrete opportunities.
“Young people and their families need to know that there are organisations, like Switch Up, out there who can support them.”
Marcellus Baz, Switch Up founder, said: “Carrying a knife is the worst mistake you can make, in a split second you could lose your life or your freedom. Trust me, it’s not worth it, you won’t be the only person impacted by this crime, your family will feel it even harder…”
During the visit, young people were engaged in a session on readiness for employment.
Many of the young people supported by the programme have secured employment, offering them a pathway out of offending. Without these opportunities, young people are open to criminal exploitation to fund and sustain their lifestyles.
Switch Up, along with other youth organisations commissioned by the Commissioner and VRU, aim to offer and ‘alternative narrative’ for young people to divert them aware from serious violence and exploitation.
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