A week of intensified action on knife crime has resulted in the police arresting 1,372 people, including 516 for a knife-related offence, and seizing more than 10,000 weapons. All police forces joined Operation Sceptre, which used a range of tactics – among them weapons sweeps and intelligence-led Stop and Search. During the week of action, no less than 1,926 Stop and Searches were conducted leading to 136 arrests. Other outcomes of the searches included cannabis warnings and arrests for other offences.
Test purchases of knives were carried out at 689 stores. Of those tested, 130 shops failed and sold a blade illegally to someone under the age of 18 – a failure rate of almost 19%. Retailers found to be breaking the law can face up to six months’ imprisonment, a fine of £5,000 or both. During the last operation in September 2018 there was a failure rate of 20%, with 99 out of 496 stores selling a knife to a child.
Officers carried out 3,771 co-ordinated area searches for weapons and found 342 knives. The number of knives surrendered during amnesties was 10,215. In total, some 10,960 knives were seized, found or surrendered.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Duncan Ball, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for knife crime, commented: “Operation Sceptre brought together all 44 police forces in England and Wales in a co-ordinated effort to take knives off our streets and bring those intent on using them for violence to justice. The increase in knife crime in recent months and years is very concerning and, as a society, we have a responsibility to act. Police officers work incredibly hard all year round to make our communities safer. This latest operation sends a clear message that there are consequences for carrying a knife or selling one illegally to a child. Police officers will work with other agencies to consider what support those arrested need to prevent them from picking up a knife ever again. Police cannot tackle violence alone and this week of intensification involved work with schools, charities, the health service, Trading Standards and communities to eradicate knife crime and keep people safe.”
Police-recorded knife crime offences are at their highest level since comparable data started in 2011, according to the latest Office for National Statistics crime figures. Those statistics show an increase of 6% in the last year.
Victoria Atkins, the Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, explained: “The rise in serious violence across the country is deeply concerning. I joined the police on Operation Sceptre and saw first-hand the vital work they do to keep our streets safe. This week of action shows how important tough law enforcement is. To support this, we’ve changed the law through the Offensive Weapons Act. This will make it harder for young people to buy knives and introduces Knife Crime Prevention Orders to deter them from carrying knives in the first place. We fully understand the fact that more needs to be done, which is precisely why we’re investing over £220 million in projects to steer young people away from crime. Our public health approach will also see public bodies work together more effectively to protect those at risk of being drawn into violence.”
Patrick Green, CEO of the Ben Kinsella Trust, stated: “Operation Sceptre continues to play an important role in tackling knife crime by taking knives and those who carry them off our streets. We welcome the wider approach now being taken by police forces to work alongside schools, charities, the health service, Trading Standards and communities. It’s vital that we not only remove knives, but that we also dispel the myths that encourage young people to carry them in the first place, such as the mistaken belief that a knife will somehow protect you or give you status. By working together, agencies are able to reach more young people and educate them about the dangers of knife crime and help them to make better decisions to stay safe.”
Police Federation responds
John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, commented: “The staggering amount of knives seized in such a short period of time not only highlights the severity of the issue, but shows just what our hard-working members are able to achieve when they’re properly resourced. However, it must be pointed out that operations such as this are only possible if officers are diverted from other vital duties, which in all honesty is a deeply concerning situation.”
Adding to that message, Apter observed: “If and when the Government decides to start taking the service seriously and provides a meaningful funding deal, operational efforts at this level to remove weapons from our streets and keep our communities safe could become the norm rather than a national or local crackdown just for a week once every year.”
In conclusion, Apter stressed: “The serious violence we see on our streets is an issue which isn’t going away and is symptomatic of the problems permeating throughout our society as a result of a decade of cost-cutting. This issue is too important to come down to balances on a politician’s spreadsheet. The Government must make significant and sustained investment in policing, and indeed all public services, in order to tackle this national scandal.”