Anti-knife crime campaign targets young people through takeaway chicken

By Joe Lepper

| 15 August 2019

The government is using takeaway chicken boxes to communicate an anti-knife crime message to young people.

Chicken shops around the country are supporting the government's #knifefree campaign. Image: Home Office

The Home Office's #knifefree branding will appear on more than 300,000 boxes used by fast-food chains.

The packaging will also display real-life stories of those who have been successfully diverted from knife crime through activities such as boxing.

In some of the shops taking part, the campaign will appear on video screens.

The Home Office says that the targeting of takeaway chains is part of a broader bid to tackle the rising problem, as part of its serious violence strategy.

The number of people stabbed to death in the UK topped 100 in the first six months of the year.

However, the chicken shop promotion, which includes Morley's, Chicken Cottage and Dixy Chicken, as well as independent takeaway outlets, has triggered a backlash, with critics describing it as offensive, a waste of money and racist.

Labour MP David Lammy, who in 2017 published a review on overrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic offenders in the criminal justice system, tweeted with a reference to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's use of the phrase "watermelon smiles".

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott also tweeted her concerns that the money would be better spent in communities.

The DJ Funk Butcher, who has taken part in a London Assembly-supported music campaign, also tweeted his concerns about how the campaign is being targeted.

There have also been calls from online campaign 38 Degrees for the government to spend the money on youth services.

The organisation is backing a petition started by Sheffield mother Kimberley Butterley, who is concerned at the loss of her local youth clubs and rising violence. At the time of publication it had nearly 55,000 signatures.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: "These chicken boxes will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer."

The #knifefree brand is also expected to have a presence at this month's Notting Hill Carnival.

"Street teams", which the Home Office says are made up of anti-knife crime community workers, will also be deployed into shops, hair salons, barbers, places of worship and community centres in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

The takeaway chicken box campaign has been introduced following a trial involving 20,000 boxes at 15 branches of Morley's in March.

Morley's managing director Shan Selvendran added: "We have been saddened by the recent increase in knife crime. We want to promote being knife free by using custom chicken boxes to deliver the message and start conversations amongst all of our customers."

The government's #knifefree campaign is targeting 10- to 21-year-olds with promotion of alternative activities that also include basketball and acting as well as through music.

The announcement comes days after Home Secretary Priti Patel announced an extension of stop and search powers for tackling knife crime.

The Prime Minister also announced the government would be investing £2.5bn in creating 10,000 new prison places.

Earlier this week the government also announced that £35m will be used to fund 18 violence reduction units through a partnership of organisations, including council, health, probation, community and policing professionals.

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