Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Monday, 18 August 2008 17:41 UK

Footballers make knife-crime plea


David Beckham and Rio Ferdinand speak out against knife crime

David Beckham has joined other England football stars to call on young people to stop carrying knives.

Beckham, Rio Ferdinand and David James spoke to launch an anti-knife campaign called It Doesn't Have to Happen.

Beckham said: "We can help people, we can help youngsters, because we've got a voice that kids listen to."

The government says more than 2,500 arrests have been made and 1,600 knives have been seized since June under its action plan to tackle knife crime.

Over 55,000 people have been stopped and searched under the measures.

The players met Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and senior police officers ahead of their match with the Czech Republic.

'Lend support'

David Beckham told the news conference at the team hotel he had experience of knife crime.

His best friend's brother had been due to sign a contract with Leyton Orient when he was stabbed aged 13.

Beckham said: "One day he was walking the streets, saw a fight, went over to help, got stabbed in the back and was paralysed.

"No one wants to see the devastation I saw my friend and his family go through. We have to lend our support to this campaign."

Boredom can set in a lot of times, there is a lot of peer pressure and then something happens that everyone regrets
Rio Ferdinand

He added: "It' so important that we get involved in this, it's so important that we believe that things can change, because no-one wants to pack their children off to school in the morning and then never see them again."

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand attended the same school as murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

"I will never forget when the headmaster brought the school to a halt and said he had been killed. There was a sombre and chilling atmosphere.

"One day the guy was enjoying life and talking about his A-levels and the next day he was gone. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

'Tragic consequences'

He said getting tough on knife crime would help, but there also needed to be schemes to keep young people busy.

"Communities and youth centres also need to play a bigger part. Boredom can set in a lot of times, there is a lot of peer pressure and then something happens that everyone regrets," he added.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the "tragic consequences" of knives had been shown with two more deaths this weekend.

She said: "Some young people may think that carrying a knife makes them safer. In fact the opposite is true, if you carry a knife you risk it being used, and possibly against you.

"It doesn't have to happen, families' grief doesn't have to happen, and communities shouldn't have to live in fear."

Ms Smith said more funding was being given to pay for 85 more portable search arches and 566 search wands to allow more operations to take place.

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