Ending knife crime using project management skills

Holly Kerr
We’re so proud of how passionate our people are about using their skills and knowledge for good.

We recently caught up with Phil Storer, senior Project Manager at Faithful+Gould, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, who recently carried out work for the Steel Warriors charity. Raising the bar on anti-knife crime campaigns, ‘Steel Warriors’ transforms surrendered blades by melting them down and recycling the steel into outdoor calisthenics gyms. Here is Phil’s story:

What do you actually do on the Steel Warriors’ project?

The gyms I managed were both in London: Ruskin Park in Camden and Finsbury Park in Haringey. I helped to manage the process, from finding sites and getting them approved, to making sure the raw materials are processed so they can be made into gyms. I also visit the sites to check that all is as designed, and to generally answer any queries that might arise. Generally, things went very smoothly!

What goes into finding a site?

Finding a location depends on a few factors, including how quickly a gym can be approved by the Local Council. The two gyms I did took around four months between them, from selecting the site through to the gym opening. The sites need to be:

  • Well populated so they’ll be used and provide a positive social benefit.
  • In economically disadvantaged areas with an established issue with knife crime.
  • Gang neutral so they won’t be ‘taken over’, and to avoid clashes and conflict. 
  • On a practical note, the specific area that a gym goes on needs to be well drained, level and free from underground services. 

Steel Warriors list out the potential sites with their partners, the Co-op, who have detailed social metrics regarding crime and poverty. We then arrange a visit with representatives of the Council and possibly the local Friends group. After a site location is agreed, it’s marked out and secured by a formal permission letter.

“The obvious positive message Steel Warriors sends resonated with me, and I also think it’s a great way to get some outdoor exercise for people in the inner city.” – Phil Storer

How do you actually get hold of the knives?

So far the knives have come from knife amnesty boxes around London. These are collected regularly by the Metropolitan Police and stored in crates at a location I cannot name. This depot is a very secure building and is also where firearms, other weapons and recovered drugs are also stored. It’s a pretty eye-opening place to visit. 1.2 tonnes of knives (and swords) are collected each month!

We have to meet a liaison officer from the Met each time to sign them over to us and then they’re couriered over to a licensed scrap metal contractor in Islington to sort out those knives which are of a suitable quality to use from those which are too poor in quality. The discarded knives are then shredded along with recovered and decommissioned fire arms.

How many knives do you need to create one site?

1.5 tonnes of quality knife steel is melted down and mixed with duplex stainless steel to bring it up to the quality required for calisthenic equipment. 

 

How do you get them melted?

Once sorted, we ship the knives to Liverpool where they undergo an incineration process to burn off the plastic handles and any other unwanted materials and impurities. We then ship the clean steel to a foundry in Birmingham where it’s melted down in a high voltage electric foundry, mixed with the duplex stainless steel and then sand cast into the gym components.

Is there anything unexpected that the team have learnt or taken away from working with Steel Warriors?

Mostly everything! Liaising with pro bono partners, the police and scrap metal contractors,  obtaining knives, visiting the foundry – all of it was well outside typical construction-related Project Management duties. The biggest takeaway for me though, was the amount of work and co-ordination needed just to get one gym up and running. We were dealing with the very start points of the supply chain – obtaining and processing the raw materials. 

Do you believe there are more ways we can shape places and spaces to make a positive difference where serious youth crime is very high?

Yes, definitely. In most of our cities there is a general lack of open spaces which I believe are essential for mental well-being. There’s also a chronic lack of social facilities, and consideration should be made for providing these perhaps as part of planning agreements. 

Faithful+Gould’s partnership with Steel Warriors is part of the company’s wider commitment to create more social value through its work with cities and communities. 

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