A bereaved mother whose son was stabbed to death has warned young people that carrying a knife is not something they should be proud of.

Tanya Brown’s son Connor died at the age of 18 after he was attacked in Sunderland in 2019 after stepping in to defend others.

Following the conviction of the two men responsible, Tanya became a prominent figure in the fight against knife crime and raises awareness of the devastation it can cause through her charity, the Connor Brown Trust.

The Northern Echo: Connor was 18 when he died after an attack in Sunderland Connor was 18 when he died after an attack in Sunderland (Image: Contributor)

Read more: Northern Echo launches North East Knife Crime Taskforce

She is also supporting the Northern Echo’s North East Knife Crime Taskforce, which aims to help organisations across the region to pool resources to save lives.

This week, Tanya is standing alongside Northumbria Police in a show of solidarity for Operation Sceptre, a national coordinated approach to reducing knife crime and serious violence.

She said: “I’m a massive supporter of prevention as opposed to punishment because once the damage is done, you can’t undo the consequences or take it back.

“Knives are not trophies or something to be proud of, they are dangerous weapons and I want young people to realise carrying a knife makes you likely to use it – and that has consequences not just for you, but for your family.

“Young people often tell me they need their knives for their protection – but if you are carrying one, you’re the perpetrator.

“Lots of young people just don’t think about their futures but one snap decision now can ruin it all, and that’s a shame because there are so many opportunities out there.”

Tanya works across a variety of schools where she keeps Connor’s memory alive by talking about his life and being open and honest with pupils about his death.

She said: “I get asked a lot about revenge, but I’m not like that.

“My revenge is not forgetting Connor. I will never forgive them for what they did, but the law has dealt with them and they have to live with this just like me.

“I get to see the positive side of Connor and remember what a wonderful young man he was. Some parents won’t get that opportunity.

“There may be those who don’t want to be seen as ‘snitch’ or a ‘grass’ – but when Connor was attacked there were so many witnesses and people who helped and spoke to police because they knew it was the right thing to do.

“The outpouring of grief after Connor’s death was massive and my way of paying back the community for their support is to make a difference to the lives of their children."

While police officers carry out year-round activity to target offenders, take weapons out of circulation and educate communities, additional work will be carried out this week to further highlight the dangers of knife crime.

The Northern Echo: Chief Supt Helena Barron with an Operation Sceptre surrender binChief Supt Helena Barron with an Operation Sceptre surrender bin (Image: Contributor)

From today (Monday) until Sunday, officers will build on their existing work with targeted patrols and searches, as well as executing warrants and teaming up with partners across transport hubs.

Colleagues in the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) run by Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness, will also be visiting a range of schools and colleges to engage with young people.

Surrender bins have also been placed at seven stations across the Force and we are encouraging members of the public with any unwanted knives or sharp objects to hand them over.

Chief Superintendent Helena Barron, Northumbria Police’s serious youth violence and knife crime lead, welcomed the week of action and called on the community to work together.

She said: “Sadly, we have seen the devastation which can come from carrying a knife with lives lost, futures destroyed and families left heartbroken.

“Officers across our Force are carrying out work every single day to reduce the impact this type of offending has on our communities.

“And as part of Operation Sceptre, we will be building on this extensive work – reinforcing the message that it is completely unacceptable to carry a knife or weapon.

“We’ll be targeting offenders, seizing weapons and stepping up our patrols, while our partners will be delivering education inputs to young people about the dangers of carrying weapons.”

Read more: Open letter to Prime Minister for action on knife crime

She added: “We’re also calling on our communities to help.

“People can bring in any unwanted knives to one of our surrender bins so they can’t fall into the wrong hands.

“We would also urge families to sit down and talk openly with children about the dangers of carrying knives.

“By coming together, we can all play or part in tackling knife crime and keeping our region safe.”

Surrender bins are now at the following stations: Southwick, Millbank, Gateshead, Forth Banks, Bedlington, Middle Engine Lane and Hexham and will remain in place until Sunday, May 21.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness added: “Carrying or using a knife, or even associating yourself with those who do, is never acceptable, it’s that simple." 

In County Durham knife bins will be installed in the front counters of police stations in Bishop Auckland, Durham City, Peterlee and Darlington.

Durham Constabulary’s Operation Sceptre lead, Inspector Michael Sammut said: “The impact knife crime can have on individuals, families and communities can be truly devastating and long lasting.

"We know that some people who possess these weapons no longer wish to but are scared to hand them in for fear or prosecution, so this is a way we can help them dispose of the items safely."

Throughout the week of action, forces will coordinate activity looking to target the root causes of knife crime.

There will be focus on the different strands of education, engagement, prevention and enforcement, all of which play an important part in reducing knife crime.

Early intervention with children, and working with retailers, youth groups, charities and other partners, will aim to stop those intent on carrying a knife.

Officers will continue to work closely with young people to further understand the reasons why individuals carry knives and also to educate them around the dangers of carrying one. 

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Inspector Dave Glass, of Cleveland Police’s Community Safety Team said: “While the causes and drivers of knife crime are complex, early intervention and putting in place measures to tackle the root causes are absolutely essential.

“During this week we will continue to highlight our work to divert children and young people away from knife crime and serious violence, whilst targeting those people in our communities who think it is acceptable to carry and use knives.

"There will be knife amnesties across all stations, and officers will be visiting schools across Teesside to talk to youngsters about the dangers and the consequences of carrying a knife."