Police guns and gangs school project reaches 10,000 pupils
23 February 2012
A WEST Midlands Police school presentation designed to steer teenagers away from gun crime and "deglamourise" gang culture has reached more than 10,000 pupils across the region.
The hard-hitting Guns & Knives Take Lives project – run by force's firearms unit – was launched a year ago and features a moving talk from Marcia Shakespeare, mother of innocent victim Letisha Shakespeare who was shot dead in 2003 by a gang member.
It's been taken to around 80 schools in the West Midlands and, last term, surpassed the five-figure audience milestone.
Firearms trainer PC Rob Pedley, who runs the presentation, said: "The presentation uses real life stories and impactful footage to get across the message that carrying weapons, or being involved in gangs, isn't cool or clever. Instead, as we demonstrate, it can have catastrophic consequences.
"We tackle issues such as peer pressure and look at how people's lives have been irrevocably changed as a result of gun crime.
"We've had terrific feedback from the pupils who seem to be genuinely engaged by the project and are taking on board our messages."
One striking piece of real-life CCTV footage in the presentation shows two teenagers, one of whom is concealing a toy gun which he's flashed at passers-by, walking along a Birmingham street.
As they're approached by specialist firearms officers – responding to calls from concerned members of the public believing the gun to be genuine – the 'armed' teen moves to discard the imitation weapon.
"On seeing the gun both firearms officers draw their pistols," added Rob, "and one later said how he began squeezing the trigger and was literally just a couple of millimetres from taking a shot. This lad came close to being killed and all because he fooling around with a toy gun and trying to worry people."
Last year, Guns & Knives Take Lives focused primarily on Birmingham schools and colleges but this year the project has moved to Coventry, Sandwell and Wolverhampton.
Speaking after a talk at Coundon Court School, Coventry, Marcia Shakespeare said: "Ultimately we're trying to save lives by encouraging young people to make the right choices and not to get involved in gang activities.
"There are no winners in gang culture: victims suffer serious injuries or are killed, whilst the perpetrators are locked away in prison for a long time.
"The police's early intervention in schools is vital in order to reach impressionable youngsters and deter them from making poor choices which could ruin their lives before they've really begun."
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