Hard Calls Save Lives

Why the Metropolitan Police Service and Crimestoppers turned to storytelling to change behaviour.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director


A new campaign to prevent knife crime in London has turned to the emotional storytelling of mothers who have lost their sons to violence and knife crime.

The campaign comprises a series of films featuring five mothers who lost their sons to violence and knife crime. Created by AMV BBDO, the campaign is supported by the Metropolitan Police Service and independent charity Crimestoppers.

The stripped back and hard-hitting campaign is told in the women’s own words. Each mother, who lost a child to knife crime, speaks directly to the public. It’s a powerful approach built on the bravery of the five mothers in the campaign.

In a series of films, Jean, Yvonne, Becky, Lorraine and Lillian relive the hardest call they had to make after they found out their child had been murdered. The unfiltered and emotional storytelling is designed to spark a change in behaviour and encourage viewers to call Crimstoppers if they have information about knife crime.

A message built on bravery 

The stripped-back grief of the films is difficult to watch but by confronting and considering the unthinkable, the need to share information about knife crime is clear. The behaviour change is in effect sparked by the brutal tragedy and human cost of murder.

In one film, Lorraine recalls calling her mother from the crime scene to say that her son Dwayne had been stabbed. She describes realising that her son would not survive his injuries as she was making the call. In another, Becky tells of calling to arrange to have her only child Archie’s body embalmed after his murder and how it feels wrong even to have his name in the same sentence as the word ‘embalm’.

Addressing the unthinkable

Each film is told by the women in their own words, and AMV BBDO and the production company Academy worked closely with the Met Police to ensure the participants were cared for throughout the process.

As the team explained: “This duty of care to these brave mothers was the priority for all involved, throughout the process.” The approach lays stark the unbearable grief of knife crime and encourages anyone having second thoughts about calling Crimestoppers with information to overcome their reservations and consider the lives that might be saved.

Stephanie Day, Head of Campaigns at Metropolitan Police, explained: “We have been incredibly lucky to find such courageous individuals who have been prepared to talk about the hardest moments in their lives in order to help others. We hope that their powerful, moving stories will encourage others to call Crimestoppers with information, in the knowledge they will remain completely anonymous. Even a small piece of information can help and be the missing piece of a puzzle and help save lives.”

AMV BBDO’s Martin Loraine, who created the campaign, added: “Everyone understands that some people find it hard to call in with information. But these mothers show what a hard call really is. Our production saw each mother relive the most traumatic call they ever made, across an audio and film shoot.”

Changing behaviour by telling stories

‘Hard Calls Save Lives’ hopes to prevent knife crime in London by encouraging people to share information. The campaign acknowledges that it can be hard to phone in with information but reminds us that there are harder calls being made.

“Calling with information about knife crime may feel hard,” each film tells viewers. “But there are harder calls”. The ads end with the line ‘Hard calls save lives’, alongside a reminder of the Crimestoppers phone number and the fact that all information is given anonymously.

Chief Executive of Crimestoppers, Mark Hallas, added: “Every day our charity hears from people who often feel they have nowhere else to turn. I’d like to add that everyone who contacts Crimestoppers is guaranteed to stay completely anonymous. By working together, we can help make our communities safer and reduce the harm, pain and suffering caused by knife crime.”