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Precious Lives speaker Augustus Stewart is no stranger to gang culture having been thrust into a life of crime in inner-city Birmingham as a young teenager

Thousands of young people have been reminded of the sheer danger of knife crime and gang culture with a series of powerful and hard-hitting talks within schools this week.

As part of our Precious Lives project and to raise awareness of West Midlands Police’s #LifeOrKnife campaign, we’ve had speakers engage with students about the risks of carrying a knife and the choices they have in society.

Precious Lives speaker Augustus Stewart is no stranger to gang culture having been thrust into a life of crime in inner-city Birmingham as a young teenager.

In 1996, Augustus received a 12-year sentence aged just 17. The father-of-four was also a victim of a stabbing and, in his own words, was lucky to survive.

Now 46 and, thanks to the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Augustus continues to guide the youth of today by putting on talks to remind youngsters just how easy it can be to be exposed to gangs and knife crime.

Augustus’s compelling talks include asking students if they’d ever take a considerable amount of money from a stranger knowing they could immediately be involved in a gang. He also shares shocking photos of stab victims while reliving his own troubled life as a teenager.

Speaking after hosting an assembly at a school in Birmingham, Augustus said: “The talks we’re putting on are saving lives because, look, you’ve just had 230 youth in the room and well over 150 stood up that would take money from a stranger and take a bag.

“They’re quite naïve. They think it’s a game. It’s not a game. These Precious Lives talks are saving a lot of lives and they’re giving people the wake-up call and reality check about what’s going on out there.

“Not having mentors or talks like this, I’d say, cost me my childhood; 100 per cent. I wish I had something like this to make me understand what was really out there. I wish I had that.

“The narrative has to change. Back when I was growing up it was very skewed. So, when we can come and deliver sessions like this it really breaks some of those narratives that they’re thinking.

“Some of the youth out there are thinking, ‘I’m going to stab someone in the leg and they’ll be alright…’ No. You could hit an artery and they’ll die.

“It’s about breaking the mindset that a lot of the youths seem to have – and having conversations that they’re having themselves.”

Augustus added: “When I went to the toilet, two lads came to me and said, ‘Thank you!’ It wasn’t just a simple thank you. I knew that they are or have been involved in something – I could just tell. It told me that they needed to hear that wake-up call before it’s too late.”

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster, who commissions the Precious Lives speaking events, said: “The work done by Augustus and our Precious Lives team continues to have a lasting impression on our young people within schools, colleges and universities.

“Sadly, there are still far too many of our young people being impacted by violent crime as a consequence of many factors, including inequality, poverty, abuse, neglect, lack of opportunity and criminal exploitation.

“It remains critical that we continue to develop a sustainable, community and youth-led approach to violence reduction and we do this by working alongside young people, communities, parents and carers.

“Work across the education system also remains a key priority of mine to embed the skills and knowledge to support our most vulnerable young people. It is important that we stand shoulder to shoulder in our efforts, to keep our young people and communities safe.

“The scourge of knife crime is devastating and, by continuing to hold West Midlands Police to account, to provide robust enforcement and by focusing on the underlying causes of violence, I will continue to make a difference so that we can ensure the region is a safer place for our young people to grow up, flourish, succeed and fulfil their potential.”

For more details about Precious Lives and our speakers, click here.

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