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London knife crime: 'I don't know how many people I've stabbed'

"I started carrying a knife when I was 12 because everyone was doing it at the time.

"To fit in more you had to do certain things so I started to stab people. I didn't do it because I wanted to be bad."

Robert Bragg was once heavily involved in the world of knife crime.

The 26-year-old served six years in prison for a range of gang-related crime and tells Radio 1 Newsbeat he believes tougher sentences would have encouraged him to change his ways a lot earlier.

He's now part of a programme to encourage school children not to get involved with knife crime.

"I did it because I wanted the older lot to like me and because I thought it was the right thing to do at the time.

"To be honest with you, I've stabbed quite a lot of people.

"If I was to sit here and count I wouldn't be able to. People remind me, to this day, about people I've stabbed that I don't remember.

"We wanted to be bad - look bad, become the gang that everyone feared. We had to carry out a lot of violent crimes to become that gang.

"Giving tougher sentences will prevent people from carrying knives because nobody wants to go to jail for 10 or 15 years just for carrying a knife."

The number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales last year was the highest since records began in 1946, official figures show.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has been speaking to Radio 1 Newsbeat about new laws he says are needed to stop social media being used to fuel knife crime.

"In London it's normal," says Robert, who now works for a charity that works in schools to highlight the dangers of being in a gang.

"It's just one of them things: you wake up, you have your breakfast, you stab someone.

"It's mad because we're not actually thinking about damaging a life.

"We don't think we're going to kill you.

"Knives have been pulled on me plenty of times.

"I'm very paranoid and I'm not in gang life no more.

"Because I'm not the same person I used to be I don't carry a knife.

"I wanted to kill myself because I realised the gang life and gang culture was a lie.

"I realised it was just a deception and your boys aren't really there for you.

"They don't really care.

"I didn't want to be part of that life no more.

" I said to myself before I kill myself I'm going to try God and see if God has a plan for my life.

"I went to church one day and I lifted my hands and said: 'God if you're real, help me'.

"I was desperate enough to cry for help.

"Being a man, when I was growing up, I was told not to cry.

"For me that was a big thing because I was crying and I felt free."

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A sculpture made from knives seized by police recently went on display in Hull

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My view: I don't get the reason why some teenagers think it's safe to protect themselves with knives. Just run and call the police, if you cannot fight like a boxer, instead of carrying deadly weapons with intent to assault people. Also sometimes some of them end up getting killed with their own knives. Social media also compounds youth violence because of its power to intensify feuds in a matter of seconds to an audience of thousands-millions. The fact that teenagers can be everywhere at the same time through Snapchat and Instagram has increased the potential to humiliate and therefore the need to maintain their self respect and restore, reputation, which results to settling feuds with dangerous weapons in the street. It is sad.

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