Campaign to tackle knife crime launched in Walsall

"Violence – it doesn't care about relatives. It's not after anyone in particular, it's after everyone."

Pastor Wesley De Costa aims to help youngsters through music
Pastor Wesley De Costa aims to help youngsters through music

Those are the words of pastor Wesley De Costa, whose cousin died after being stabbed with a knife 11 years ago.

And now the pastor, from The Potters House Christian Fellowship Church, has launched a campaign to tackle the rise in knife crime.

"Knife crime, it's always been around but recently it's been in the news a lot more and there has been an increase in crimes relating to knives," the 25-year-old said.

"We're looking to get to the root of the problems – if you get to the root you can deal with a lot of it."

Wesley, from Great Barr, said: "We know all knife crime is not going to stop if we do events and things, but it changes the climate of the youth in Walsall who see there's more events being done on knife crime.

"And it gets people thinking and considering their ways and what they are doing– how can they prevent it themselves?

"It takes encouragement for people to put down their knives which is why we called it [the campaign] Disarmed.

"We want to engage and inspire the youth and get them to come and see what we're about – and to change the misconception that all churches are cold and echo-y."

Cousin

Wesley's cousin, Leon Lee – known by nickname 'Dyer' – died after being stabbed in Finchley Park, Kingstanding, in 2008.

"He got stabbed in the park and it was just to do with gang violence and crime," the 25-year-old said.

But after that moment, the then-14-year-old began to carry a weapon around.

Wesley said: "I started to carry a weapon [after that].

"It was not so much a knife, but like a dumbbell – one of the bars.

"It was a metal bar, so I could disguise it if I ever got stopped – I could pass it off like I had just bought some weights.

"I remember the brother of my cousin said 'be very careful' if you do that and it shows that people say 'be careful' but they accept people carrying a weapon.

"I did have a run in with my younger brother as well – when he was off the rails he pulled out a knife, but it was quickly diffused and we made up instantly.

"Violence – it doesn't care about relatives. It's not after anyone in particular, it's after everyone.

Music

"I see some children on the streets and I think 'you're probably carrying something'.

"I'm reminded that was my cousin – someone in my own family – and the memory kind of stirs me up.

"I don't want this to happen to other people."

The campaign aims to tackle knife crime through music – to counter-act messages sent out by gangs through grime and drill music.

It comes after the deaths of James Brindley and Reagan Asbury through knife crime.

James Brindley

James Brindley was on his way home on June 23. 2017, after meeting friends in Aldridge when he was attacked.

The fitness instructor was stabbed in the heart during a 35-second attack.

Reagan Asbury

Reagan Asbury was stabbed to death outside Walsall Town Hall following a night of boxing.

The 19-year-old was attacked during the climax of a title bout which spilled outside.

He died in hospital the following night from the single stab wound.

Wesley De Costa said: "As a pastor, my primary role is to care for people and I want it to hit home for them.

"[The campaign], It's based around music and a drama skit.

"It's music young people listen to and we've chosen that deliberately.

"In that music they promote crime, through the music like grime and drill so we use that music and switch it completely to bring the reality out – that knife crime is not a glamorous thing.

"Some of the things we say in the songs, it has to captivate people and it's for people to understand that it's unacceptable – lives are being taken."

The next performance in Walsall will be at the end of September, but the campaign is set to go nation-wide to spread the message.

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