'Stop and think' urges mother of murdered Sunderland teenager Connor Brown as police clampdown on knife crime sees 117 arrests

More than 100 people have been arrested and over 200 knives confiscated by police as part of a crack down on knife crime backed by the family of Sunderland teenager Connor Brown, who was stabbed to death in the city centre.

Eighteen-year-old Connor had been on a night out with friends when he was stabbed after trying to defuse an altercation in February 2019.

More recently, in October 2021, 18-year-old Jack Woodley died after being stabbed during an attack following Houghton Feast, while last month (October), Tomasz Oleszak, 14, from Gateshead died following an alleged knife attack.

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Last week saw the launch of Operation Sceptre, a coordinated national effort to clampdown on knife crime and violence, which saw 211 knives and other potentially dangerous items taken into police possession, including old kitchen knives, machetes and swords.

It also led to 117 arrests.

The campaign is being supported by Connor’s mum, Tanya, who set up the Connor Brown Trust, along with his dad Simon and sister Ellen, to support young people and their families embroiled in crime, violence and criminal activities.

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Tanya said: “The impact Connor’s death has had on us as a family has been truly devastating and on a daily basis, it never leaves you, it never gets any easier, and the pain is real. Please stop and think.

“The Connor Brown Trust works tirelessly with young people to educate them on the impact knife crime has on families, friends, and communities. We have carried out many workshops sessions.”

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Operation Sceptre has been backed by Tanya and Simon (top left), parents of 18-year-old Connor Brown, who was stabbed while on a night out with friends in 2019.
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Family of Sunderland teen Connor Brown meet Great North Air Ambulance paramedic ...
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Police officers carried out searches and “weapons sweeps” with surrender bins set up at seven stations across Northumbria Police’s force area, including Southwick, where knives or sharp objects can be handed in.

The campaign has also involved 84 school visits to educate young people about the dangers and consequences of carrying knives.

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Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “Understandably, knife carrying and serious youth violence is not only a national concern but a local one too. Recent tragedies, here in the North East, are front of everyone’s minds right now.

Tanya and Simon Brown are backing a national campaign to eradicate knife crime from our streets.
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"Mams, dads, teachers and whole communities – we all want to make sure history stops repeating itself.

"People want to know knives are being seized, arrests are being made and work to educate young people about the dangers is really being ramped-up. All that is happening and will continue to happen.

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“No family should ever have to go through this devastation.”

Chief Superintendent Helena Barron, the force’s serious violence and knife crime lead, added: “Our message to anyone who carries a knife hasn’t changed – you risk destroying more than one life.

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Connor Brown, who tragically died after being stabbed.

“There can never be any excuse to carry a knife or any kind of weapon and the impact of doing so can be devastating for all concerned.

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She added: “We all have a responsibility to help tackle knife crime.”

Anyone who has information about someone who is in possession of a knife or weapon, or wishes to report suspicious activity, is urged to contact Northumbria Police via the force’s Tell Us Something webpage or by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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Connor’s killer, Leighton Barrass, is currently serving a life sentence with a minimum of 20 years behind bars, while in June, 10 teenagers were found guilty of the murder of Jack Woodley.

Chief Superintendent Helena Barron alongside one of the surrender bins.
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Some of the knives handed in during Operation Sceptre.
Jack Woodley tragically died after being stabbed following visiting Houghton Feast.