17 people are convicted every day for carrying a knife. More worrying, the majority are children.
Last year 788 people in their teens, 20s or 30s died as a result of alcohol – more than two a day. It’s a pretty bleak picture.
As a father, it scares me to think these two issues alone are damaging the lives of hundreds of vulnerable young people.
What can we do to build safer communities and help tackle the problems associated with youth violence?
It’s not simply about reducing crime levels through tougher policing. We need to do what we can to identify and tackle the root causes at a community level. At Asda we recognise that we have a responsibility to play our part.
The most obvious impact we can make is to prevent the sale of alcohol and knives to young people.
Our “challenge 25” policy ensures everyone who looks under 25 is asked to prove their age, sending a clear message that we won’t turn a blind eye.
We’ve also committed to not selling knives online. We provide training and support for staff on the sale of age-restricted items, so they feel confident saying no.
From a commercial point of view it makes sense. Every time a retailer sells alcohol or knives to someone underage, not only do they risk being fined, they are often named and shamed – rightly so. So it’s in our best interest to do everything we can to prevent these products falling into the wrong hands.
Most of our store managers are locals and many are parents, so they understand the need to make their neighbourhoods as safe as possible by reaching out to the local community.
Take our Burnley store. By teaming up with Business in the Community to help turn an old double-decker into a youth community bus, they helped create a place for kids to spend time with their friends in a safe environment.
The bus offers a service that many hard-pressed families might otherwise struggle to find. It’s kitted out with equipment including computers with internet access, PlayStations, a flatscreen TV and DVD player, music system and chill-out area.
A trained youth worker is on board to give confidential advice and guidance on things such as alcohol, drugs and sexual health.
Although it sounds simple, incidences of anti-social behaviour in Burnley have been cut. In one area criminal damage fell 39 per cent over a 10-week period as a direct result of the bus.
We hope to help in the roll-out of up to 20 more mobile youth centres to deprived areas. By encouraging other businesses and Government agencies to engage with us, together we can target thousands more hard-to-reach kids by offering alternatives.
Targeted action like this could protect the lives of millions of kids who might otherwise become victims of violence.
Surely that’s reason enough.
- Andy Clarke is chief operating officer of Asda