Government and retailers tackle scourge of knife crime through partnership approach

Sarah Newton, the Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism, has announced that four major retailers have joined the voluntary agreement to prevent the sale of knives to underage individuals. Boots UK, the Co-op, B&Q and Aldi have all committed to ensuring safeguards are put in place on the sale and delivery of knives by ensuring that age verification checks are robust, including regular staff training in their education programmes and ensuring knives are packaged and displayed securely.

These High Street retailers join Tesco, Lidl UK, Wilko, Argos, Morrisons, Asda, Poundland, Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, Amazon UK, Ebay UK and Waitrose who all signed up to the agreement in March last year, in turn helping to deliver on the commitment to extend the agreement and encompass further retailers.

Between July and September 2016, no fewer than 4,937 knife possession offences were formally dealt with by the criminal justice system. Of those offences, 19% were down to juvenile offenders.

There has also been an apparent increase in the number of young people aged ten to 15 reporting knowing someone who carries a knife. Raising awareness of the risks and consequences of carrying a knife is an important part of the Government’s knife crime prevention approach.

“Knife crime can have devastating consequences'” commented Sarah Newton. “We will act wherever necessary to reduce violence and keep our communities safe. It’s very important that retailers have robust checks in place to prevent sales of knives to under 18s, both in stores and online, and I welcome the commitment from Aldi, B&Q, Boots UK and the Co-op to help tackle this issue. Published last March, our Modern Crime Prevention Strategy set out a range of measures designed to strengthen our response to knife crime, but we know there’s more to be done. We’ll continue to work with the police, retailers and voluntary groups alike.”

Andrew Pope, head of risk at the Co-op, told Risk UK: “We’re committed to supporting efforts designed to tackle knife crime and would urge all retailers to implement restrictions to prevent the sale of knives to children. These measures, such as proof of age at the point of purchase and the safe and secure packaging of such products, can all help to make local communities that much safer environments.”

Law enforcement activity

The agreement on sales of knives is part of a wider approach to tackling knife crime which includes law enforcement activity. Police forces undertook a series of co-ordinated weeks of action to tackle knife crime under Operation Sceptre in February, April, June and October 2016.

In October, 21 police forces across the country took part in Operation Sceptre which included targeting habitual knife carriers, weapon sweeps, test purchases of knives from identified retailers and the use of surrender bins. Sarah Newton attended a weapons sweep in Brixton to witness at first-hand the law enforcement response.

Over the course of the week of action, 474 retail premises were visited and 391 test purchases carried out. Over 1,200 weapons were seized, there were over 1,100 weapon sweeps in six police force areas, more than 300 arrests were made and over 720 knives were placed in amnesty bins.

Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on knife crime, explained: “Police forces across the country have responded to continuing concerns around knife offences, which have started to increase following a long-term downward trend. In our latest operation, namely Operation Sceptre 6, we targeted habitual offenders in crime hotspots, resulting in hundreds of arrests and 1,200 weapons being seized. We’ve also worked with Trading Standards to identify retailers who are failing to meet their responsibilities under the law in terms of selling.”

Hitchcock added: “There’s no easy solution to the scourge of knife crime, which impacts our communities and their feelings of safety. Tackling violence involving knives remains a key priority for the police service and we intend to maintain the momentum we’ve already created. More activity is already being planned for 2017.”

Ban on zombie knives

Last August, the Government also banned the sale, manufacture and importation of zombie knives by adding them to the list of prohibited offensive weapons.

Ebay UK and Amazon UK have also made a commitment to enforce age restricted sales through their marketplaces.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

Related Posts