WHEN I first met Bheki he was a bright young man with a winning smile and a vision for the future. When I was last with him, just a few months back, he was in a coffin.

Just another tragic victim of knife crime, killed outside a Corringham primary school.

I wish I could go back and tell him not to take the path he took, to show him those who loved him and the many tears they shed but, for all my faith, I cannot time-travel and I cannot alter the past.

But, please God, just maybe we can all alter the future.

According to the Home Office, there were 39,818 knife crime offences in the twelve months before September 2018 and 285 killings in 2017/8 with one in four victims being males aged 18 to 24 and 25% of them black. 4,459 knife possession offences in this same year were by kids aged 10 - 17!

For the last two years our small community has faced the growing threat of knife crime in the area.

Teenagers now feel they need to carry a knife to protect themselves. In part this is also due to the coverage in the media.

Since Bheki’s stabbing even more teenagers carry knives.

We need to change the mindset of our teenagers and make them fully aware of the reality of the situation: the more people that carry knives, the more they will be used.

We need to work with the younger generation to help them avoid falling into gangs.

It’s been good to see local police on the streets over the last few weeks and developing better community relationship and trust. We want to build on this and to this end a group of us are starting a new Youth Group in Stanford le Hope. Contact me if you want to know more or offer your help.

Our first small move is a badge saying SS17 Against Knife Crime. The proceeds will help fund an awareness campaign in our local schools. Buy one. Wear one. We’ve had enough of Knife Crime.

For Bheki’s sake and all the others – let’s stop it together!

John Guest