A major new knife crime campaign telling the story of a Bedfordshire mum whose teenage son was stabbed to death is being launched across the county.
Roseann Taylor’s son Azaan ‘AJ’ Kaleem died in Luton in 2018 when he was just 18 years old.
AJ and Roseann’s story is now being told in a short film commissioned by the Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU), which will form the centrepiece of the VERU’s new Just Drop It campaign.
Just Drop It seeks to shine a light on the ripple effect of knife crime through families and communities, aiming to deter young people from carrying or ever using a blade.
The film has been launched to coincide with the start of Operation Sceptre, a national week of action by police forces across the country to tackle knife crime which starts today (Monday).
The Just Drop It campaign is being backed by Bedfordshire Police and a whole host of other agencies in the county, with police and other organisations set to carry out a wealth of activities this week to spread awareness about the campaign and combat knife crime more widely.
Roseann now works for the VERU in the unit’s Youth Intervention Specialist team, where she works with young people at risk of violence and exploitation as well as their families.
She said: “I don’t want any family to ever suffer the loss and pain me and everyone else close to AJ have had to endure due to reckless violence.
“Just Drop It is trying to raise awareness of the excellent support available to parents and young people across the county and encourage anyone considering carrying a knife to make positive changes.
“Recent tragic events in Luton show just how important it is that we keep pushing this message and I am determined to use AJ’s story as a force for good.
“We all have a responsibility when it comes to tackling knife crime so I would urge everyone reading this to get involved and play their part in making a positive change in our communities.”
The film, produced by TMG Creative, is to be premiered at a sold out special screening at Youthscape in Luton on Wednesday (15 November) at 7pm.
Further screenings are set to take place across the county over the coming weeks.
A Facebook Live webinar is being held on Thursday evening as well, where people will be able to watch the film and ask questions of professionals who work with young people.
The VERU and Bedfordshire Police’s education and diversion team will also this week be playing the film in schools and colleges as part of special sessions with students about knife crime.
Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Trevor Rodenhurst said: “The devastating impact of knife crime has been felt all too recently here in Bedfordshire.
“This powerful new film and campaign is a massive boost for our efforts to deter young people from carrying knives and encourage them to make positive choices.
“Roseann’s story is incredibly powerful and I cannot commend her enough for her strength and bravery in telling this story to drive positive change across the county.
“Bedfordshire Police is firmly behind this campaign and we’ll keep working alongside the VERU and other partners to do everything we can to keep young people in our county safe.”
As part of the campaign dozens of organisations will be promoting the campaign on their website and have signed up to the Just Drop It anti knife crime pledge.
This can be viewed alongside a wealth of advice and information on a new Just Drop It section of the VERU’s website.
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said: “Tackling knife crime remains a priority for the me and as such, I am pleased to be supporting this new landmark campaign launched by the VERU.
“Roseann’s journey will resonate with many families across the country, and we remain grateful for her willingness to share her experience. We do not take this for granted.”
“I say this with no reservations; anyone who carries a knife or bladed article in Bedfordshire must be prepared to face the consequences.
“While we do everything we can to prevent knife crime, the force have my full backing in imposing a zero tolerance approach to knife related incidents, and the VERU have my support in carrying the message of this campaign to every resident in Bedfordshire.”