Bin a Blade
Who is Holly Watson?
In September 2009, Holly Watson was an ordinary 16-year-old – she had just started sixth form, had a part-time job and enjoyed going out with her mates. But on 26 September that all changed.
A phone call in the middle of the night revealed that her older brother Lewis had been stabbed in Sudbury and was being rushed to hospital. Hours later he died. This turned her life upside down, but with the support and strength of family and friends she began to re-build her life and wanted to do something to ensure no other family would have to suffer the way hers had and still were.
She also wanted to bring home to people that what happened to her brother, can happen to anyone, anywhere. She wanted people to be more aware of the dangers of knives, she wanted to see knives being taken off the streets, she wanted more random searches carried out by police and pub/club owners. She had no idea how she was going to accomplish this, but was determined to see something done, or at least to try.
A man was charged with Lewis’s murder.
On 24 February 2010 Andrew Rowlands, now 29 and formerly of The Croft in Sudbury, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 17 years.
So what did Suffolk Police do?
Following a further two knife-related incidents in Sudbury over the next few months, it was suggested to the Safer Neighbourhood Team that an anti-knife campaign and amnesty may help feelings of safety in the town. The SNT joined with Babergh District Council to develop the ‘Sudbury Says No To Knives’ campaign in January 2010. This included a presentation to over 2000 students; young people produced a film about a fatal stabbing; a knife amnesty collected 200 knives; a personal safety training event was run for licensed premises; and door staff were issued scanners.
Local media promoted the project positively. This in turn allowed the community to feel assured that knife crime was no longer an issue and had been successfully dealt with by the SNT and partners.
What did Holly do next?
Holly launched a bid to secure publicity for her own anti-knife campaign through Channel 4’s Battlefront programme. She carried out a number of media interviews and secured second place in the online vote. This spurred her on to set up her own website, encouraging people not to carry knives.
During Holly’s Battlefront campaign, BBC Radio Suffolk’s Mark Murphy challenged Suffolk Constabulary’s Chief Constable Simon Ash to initiate a permanent knife amnesty for Suffolk. On 14 December 2010, Bin a Blade was born. Three static amnesty bins were launched by Holly, Mark and Mr Ash outside Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft Police Stations; these were then joined by two mobile bins touring Suffolk’s smaller stations and a fourth static bin at Mildenhall Police Station.
Over the next 12 months there was an overwhelming response to the bins, and on 1 January 2012 the final total handed in was 6125. Sackers Recycling stored the deposited knives over the course of the year, and on 1 February 2012 the knives were shredded with Holly at the controls.
What else have Holly and Bin a Blade achieved?
The campaign was complimented by a knife rap produced by young people in Ipswich; knife patrols using metal-detecting arches outside Bury St Edmunds nightclubs; a crackdown on knife sellers at car boot sales; an anti-knife crime film; and Holly’s campaigning work including the launch of her own website and wristbands for young people to pledge not to carry a knife.
Holly has won numerous awards for her campaigning, including a Woman of the Year award, a Rotary International Young Citizen of the Year award, a Suffolk Young Person of the Year award and a Princess Diana award; she has featured in national media; and has visited the Houses of Parliament and the Home Office to talk about knife crime.
Bin a Blade was highly commended at Suffolk’s High Sheriff’s Awards 2012.
So what happens next?
Whilst the amnesty was initially a year-long project, Suffolk Constabulary is continuing to work with Holly and BBC Radio Suffolk to make carrying a knife unacceptable. We could not do this without keeping bins available for people to dispose of blades anonymously; the four static bins are owned by our partners at Forest Heath, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils, and they have kindly allowed us to keep these open at Bury St Edmunds, Mildenhall, Ipswich and Lowestoft for even more knives to be deposited.
A further 2205 were deposited in 2012. An educational theatre production and an award made from amnesty knives are also being developed. Bin a Blade features in an exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood.