A REFORMED gang member shared his own experiences with school children on the Isle of Wight ­— to deter them from carrying knives.

As part of Operation Sceptre ­— the national week of action against knife crime and the Constabulary’s own peer on peer campaign, Never Choose Knives ­— school children on the Isle of Wight were visited by ex-gang member, Omar Sharif, to hear his experiences and inspire them early in life to make positive life choices.

Omar Sharif, 27, is a Pride of Britain award winner, and runs his own company, Omar Inspires.

Omar spends his time travelling all around the UK delivering educational and empowering seminars at schools, colleges and key note speaking at conferences.

Growing up in London, where gun and knife crime were a way of life, Omar became involved in a gang when he was just 16 years old.

When three of his friends died as a result of knife crime, it was a horrifying wake-up call and Omar knew things needed to change.

On Tuesday, September 17, and Wednesday, September 18, Omar joined officers from the Island’s neighbourhood policing teams to speak about his experiences to more than 2,000 pupils.

Omar visited Priory School, Whippingham, Medina School, Ryde Private School, The Island Learning Centre in Newport, Christ the King School, Carisbrooke Primary, Carisbrooke College and Island Free School.

He said: “It's important for teenagers to understand the consequences of carrying a knife, and that there is an alternative, even if they are feeling pressured by their peer group.

“A lot of young people caught carrying a knife aren't carrying a knife with the intent to hurt someone, they carry a knife because they think it'll make them feel safe.

"That's why I started carrying a knife. The problem with that is it doesn't protect you.

Chief inspector for the Isle of Wight, Rob Brind, said: "Whilst the Isle of Wight is not considered a hot spot for knife crime, Op Sceptre has enabled officers and partners to emphasise preventative measures with young children by educating them early about the risk and consequences of carrying a knife.

"It's preventative solutions such as this that will continue to keep our young people and communities safer on the Isle of Wight."

Last year, 315 children and young people were caught in possession of a bladed implement in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

For information on the national campaign, visit: www.knifefree.co.uk

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