"WE don't want to have a generation of young people carrying knives like carrying a phone in their pocket."

This is the powerful warning youth worker, Sharat Hussain, has put forward after alarming figures revealed a child aged only 11 was caught with a bladed weapon in Bradford - and almost half of those caught last year were under 15.

A Freedom of Information Request sent to West Yorkshire Police showed 48 people aged between 11 and 25 were found with knives, bladed or pointed articles, or threatened to use a knife, across the city's wards in 2021.

The youngest - an 11-year-old - was found by police officers carrying a bladed weapon in the Bowling and Barkerend area.

This was the first of these offences committed by a person under the age of 25 to occur in Bradford, in 2021.

There were 22 youngsters under the age of 15 caught with some form of sharp article in the city.

Six of them were 15, five were 14, five were 13, five were 12 and the final youth was the previously mentioned 11-year-old.

West Yorkshire Police explained the figures cover articles with a blade or point - such as a piece of broken glass or bottle - as well as knives.

The data also includes offences where threats are made to use a knife, but no knife is actually seen.  

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Sharat Hussain, youth workerSharat Hussain, youth worker

Mr Hussain admitted he is not shocked by the figures.

He said: "The issue is knife crime is on the increase, I've always said that.

"We need an education programme that educates on the dangers of carrying knives and the consequences of carrying knives."

The youth worker runs a "Confession" programme at Mary Magdalene CIC, in the White Abbey area, which prevents youngsters offending and helps guide them towards positive role models and healthy lifestyles, by using boxing as an outlet.

There is even a prison cell that was set-up in the former church, to show youths what it is really like to be behind bars.

Mr Hussain has in-depth intelligence on knife crime and he revealed teenagers carrying bladed weapons all tell police and himself the same thing.

He said: "Young people carry knives as a means of protection or just to show off.

"They're using knives as a means of protection which isn't what we're about in the community.

"If we have, we don't want a generation of people carrying knives like carrying a phone in their pocket."

He added: "They always say, 'we have it in our pocket, but never use it'.

"But when the time comes, the heat of the moment, when a rush of blood comes, the knives come out.

"When they lose that little moment, what they do, the knife gets used.

The FOI figures show there were children carrying bladed weapons in some of Bradford's surrounding areas too, with two 11-year-olds caught in each of Pudsey and Cleckheaton last year.

Bradford's Inner City ward recorded the most amount of instances of young people being caught with a blade of some form, with 11 cases.

The youngest of these was 12, while there were also two 14-year-olds and one 15-year-old stopped and found with a bladed weapon in 2021.

The next highest was the Little Horton area, with seven offences recorded.

All of these individuals were aged 17 or older, with three of them aged 20.

Mr Hussain said: "That number will only increase in schools, in youth clubs, and the streets."

West Yorkshire Police set-up Operation Jemlock in 2019 - the force's dedicated initiative for tackling knife and violent crime.

It provides additional deployments of police officers into hotspot areas across West Yorkshire.

These officers are deployed on foot and in vehicles and deliver a visible, preventative and evidence based policing style.

Operation Jemlock supports national campaigns, including Op Sceptre around knife crime and are proactive in enforcement activities such as weapon sweeps, test purchase operations and educational visits.  

The force has a number of other preventative measures in place too, such as its Violence Reduction Unit (RPU) and a Safer Schools Officer.

A spokesperson for police said: "West Yorkshire Police are committed to prosecuting anyone found to be possessing or using a knife.

"The work of our partners and community-based projects is important, as is the vigilance of families who believe one of their relatives may carry weapons.

"Tackling it requires everyone to work together through a variety of approaches, from school inputs and awareness campaigns, to weapons surrenders, which are always successful in taking weapons out of circulation, to actively targeting offenders."