'A knife isn't necessarily there to damage – young people say it's for protection'

Whitney Iles has spent half her life working to reduce violence among young people. She talks to the Guardian’s Beyond the Blade project about why children and teenagers might carry knives, and how that behaviour can be changed

This year, the Guardian has been tracking the knife killings of young people in the UK in an attempt to understand the scale of an issue on which there is no national, publicly available data. As we have marked more than 30 deaths of children and teenagers, sometimes at the hands of their peers, we have also tried to understand the underlying issues. Throughout this project, called Beyond the Blade, we have attempted to consider why young people are carrying deadly weapons and how they might be convinced to change course.

Whitney Iles, 30, has already devoted half her life to finding out the answers to these questions. She is the CEO of Project 507, a social enterprise that implements peace-building and diversion strategies across London and counsels those already in jail to help them understand the roots of their behaviour.

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