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Dedicated operation sees twelve weapons recovered inside young offender institution

We recovered twelve weapons from inside a Staffordshire young offender institution as part of a dedicated enforcement and education operation around knife crime.

In June, our prison investigations team carried out a month-long initiative at HMYOI Werrington – called Operation Zinnia.

Through this work, we were able to identify nine young people who were carrying weapons, manufactured sharpened articles and other items which can be fabricated into making a weapon.

The initiative closely followed the structure of Operation Sceptre, where all ten of our local policing teams worked with partners to proactively target and educate those carrying knives on our streets.

As part of the operation, a two-week amnesty period was carried out inside HMYOI Werrington where young people could surrender the weapons in confidence.

Rooms were searched thoroughly using Youth Justice Workers, Prison Officers, the Regional Prison Search team and the Prisons Investigation Team, who found an illicit mobile phone, a number of improvised sharpened weapons, three large rocks, screws, charging cables and other tampered electrical items.

Educational efforts saw a number of guest speakers deliver sessions to the young people over the course of the month – including anti-violence campaigner Alison Cope.

Alison lost her son, Joshua Ribera, to a knife attack in Birmingham in 2013. She spoke with a number of young people around the dangers of knife crime and how they can make positive choices to stay safe.

They were invited to reflect on their decisions, how to change their behaviour and the impact their crime has on others, their loved ones and themselves.

A number of young people said the talks were “thought provoking” and “interesting”, with many confessing that it made them reflect on their own lives.

Staffordshire Police’s Prisons and Coroners Manager, Sarah Hales, who initiated and managed the operation, said: “I’m proud of the organisation and execution of this initiative which has helped us to remove dangerous weapons from inside our institution and educate those involved to make better choices.

“We won’t tolerate those who seek to continue their offending and put the security of the prison estate at risk. We’re happy to see a number of young people who have engaged positively with the educational sessions and those who have reflected on their own actions as a result of our activity.

“We would have not been able to have successfully achieved this operation without the help from HMYOI Werrington and wider prison and probation service specialist support.

“Staffordshire holds the largest prison estate across Europe and it’s vital that we continue to enforce and educate on these matters to continue inspiring change.”


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