Marines' anti-knife crime drive comes to Leeds gym

A session at the Bad Company boxing gym in Leeds, aimed at tackling youth knife crime
The Bad Company gym, in Leeds, is one of the venues supporting the Royal Marines initiative to tackle gang violence and knife crime [BBC]

A group of Leeds children have been put through a gruelling fitness session by the Royal Marines, as part of a drive aimed at tackling knife crime.

The Royal Marines have partnered with the Knives down, gloves up campaign in an effort to turn youngsters away from violence and gang culture.

The initiative's first event in Yorkshire was held at the Bad Company gym in Leeds on Sunday with dozens of young people attending.

One of those behind the campaign said it was also an opportunity for officers to "give something back" to the communities they came from.

Knife crime remains a huge problem in West Yorkshire, with 10,000 blade-related arrests made in the region over the last five years.

Richard Smith, who owns the Bad Company gym, said activities like martial arts offered an alternative route for young people who might otherwise end up involved in a life of crime.

A session at the Bad Company boxing gym in Leeds, aimed at tackling youth knife crime
Besides boxing techniques, the session also focused on fitness, teamwork and discipline [BBC]

He told BBC Look North: "I'm all for the initiative and getting that message across. You can hear how much fun everyone's having today.

"Certainly I've seen a number of people come through gym who could have turned out very differently, but for the fact they've become Thai fighters. It's given them a purpose in life and self esteem and reasons to prove themselves."

Beyond Thai boxing, the session also featured a strong emphasis on general fitness and teamwork.

Warrant Officer Dennis Harrison said the initiative was being rolled out across the north of England in an effort to teach values of "courage, respect for others and self-discipline".

Royal Marines WO Dennis Harrison
WO Dennis Harrison said if the initiative allowed Royal Marine officers to "give something back" [BBC]

He told Look North: "We're looking to build on the work being done by these gyms, to offer an alternative to gang culture and knife crime.

"It's important for us to give something back to our hometowns. This gives us a chance to do that and engage with communities where knife crime is prevalent.

"If we can do something about it, if it can save one kid, then it's absolutely worth it."

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