Cleveland Police have announced their latest innovative measures to reduce knife crime in the North East.

The new ‘Custody Navigators’ who have been speaking to first-time offenders are hearing that ‘young people are scared and feel they need to have some protection’.

This new scheme is trying to fix the root causes of youth violence.

In just the last few weeks the navigators have heard a range of motivations for carrying a knife usually involving fear or a feeling of vulnerability.

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Steve Turner, Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner, described how the new scheme would not only ‘reduce knife crime but it will get to the root causes too’.

He said: “The idea is that when somebody comes into custody, particularly young people, it is at that point that they are really considering their choices.

“They might be injured or going to hospital as a consequence of their decisions.

“It’s at that point that having somebody they can talk to could make all the difference.

“The navigators will be asking ‘Is there anything we can do to help?’

“We can help direct them to the best support services for them.

“This will not only help us reduce knife crime but it will get to the root causes too.”

Olivia Stairmand and Kate Pryde are two of the navigators who have been speaking to young people in custody in recent weeks.

The Northern Echo: Olivia Stairmand and Kate Pryde have joined up as custody navigators

They have been hearing first hand why young offenders feel that they need to carry knives.

Olivia said: “80% of the young people we have seen in custody have been in for serious violence including knife crime.

“It’s a priority for us to understand why.

“We go at their pace and if they initially don’t want to talk we make sure to go back a few times to see if they change their minds.

“A lot of what we are hearing is that young people feel a need for protection and they carry knives out of fear.

“It may be that the young person has been bullied or that they feel they need to protect themselves in their area.

“When they are in custody this is the best moment to speak to them when they are reflecting on why they are here.”

Kate said: “This is going to give us a real feel for what’s happening in the community.

“The thought that we can be there for somebody who doesn’t have anybody else makes what we do really important.”

The Northern Echo is campaigning to stop knife crime in the North East and has launched The North East Knife Crime Taskforce to help see this end.

The Taskforce is an open forum to enable organisations involved to share information, expertise and resources with the common purpose of stopping young people from using knives as weapons.

Cleveland's violence reduction partnership has also been launched in conjunction with the Taskforce.

John Holden, Head of Cleveland’s violence reduction partnership (CURV), said: “In the last 12 months 11% of all serious violent offences were knife or sharp object related.

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“It doesn’t have to be that way.

“We know people carry knives for a number of reasons but there is a bigger picture we need to be seeing.

“We need to know the reasons that young people feel they need to carry knives whether that is gang-related or protection related.”