Staffordshire Police is calling on partners, parents, schools and the wider community to come together in support of a national operation to tackle the issue of knife crime.
This week (11-17 March), under Operation Sceptre, the force will be rolling out a wide variety of enforcement and educational activities, with the support of partners, to help reduce the impact of knife crime in the communities of Staffordshire.
Superintendent Ricky Fields, strategic lead for knife crime at Staffordshire Police, said: “Staffordshire Police continues to see increases in recorded crime involving the possession or use of knives alongside increases in overall violent crime. Knife crime is unfortunately a visible part of communities in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent and not an issue we can tackle on our own.
“We are doing lots to tackle knife crime and we are actively pursuing those who intend to cause harm within Staffordshire’s communities. We will do all we can to bring offenders to justice, however enforcement is just one element of the response needed. Knife crime cannot and must not be treated in isolation.
“The threat of knife crime increases when considered with street gangs or drugs activity. Our approach is not to criminalise young people but to safeguard them and protect them. With partners, parents and schools we need to understand why young people choose to carry knives, because we have seen a marked increase in recent years in Staffordshire.”
Staffordshire Police’s neighbourhood policing teams will be visiting schools and colleges to educate young people on the dangers and consequences of carrying knives, setting up proactive knife operations in busy town centres to detect and deter habitual knife carriers, and organising knife sweeps in knife crime hotspots to discover any knives concealed in public areas. The force will also be continuing in its efforts to deter offenders through the use of stop and search.
To complement this activity, a targeted social media campaign aimed at those most likely to commit offences with a knife will be rolled out. This hard-hitting campaign will shine a light on the stark realities of knife crime and youth violence.
Supt Fields added: “We must encourage young people, parents, schools and other public bodies to have conversations about knife crime. This week of targeted activity will hopefully help to raise the profile of this important topic and help us to prevent the terrible events that have been seen recently in other areas of the country.”
Staffordshire’s Commissioner Matthew Ellis, said: “We have seen in recent months the sickening violence involving knives in some parts of our country. Police in Staffordshire have seen an increase in recorded crime involving the possession or the use of knives, although some of this can be attributed to an increase in stop/search and a more proactive approach to tackling violence. The tragedies we have seen elsewhere relating to knives are a timely reminder that this could happen here unless urgent and proactive action is taken.
“The knife crime summit we held in July 2018 has resulted in positive and proactive work with young people to educate and prevent the risk of involvement in this behaviour. I have this week written to strategic leaders from all key agencies to invite them to come together to develop and refresh strategies and actions that need to be taken. Policing must play a significant role in this issue but other public agencies also play a vital role in dealing with the scourge of knives and knife crime.”
Knife crime has increased in Staffordshire by 5% (32 crimes) over the past rolling 12 months (1 March 2018 – 28 February 2019) with personal robbery where a knife is used having increased by 20%. The top three neighbourhood policing teams in Staffordshire for knife crime are Stoke-on-Trent North, Stoke-on-Trent South and Tamworth.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council was recently awarded £226,000 following a bid to the national Supporting Families Against Youth Crime Fund. The money will be used to provide extra training and support to help children who might be vulnerable to criminal exploitation and their families. The council’s youth offending service is also working with schools and the charity Street Doctors to deliver targeted sessions to children who might be at risk of carrying knives and offensive weapons.
Cllr Randy Conteh, cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, said: “Knife crime has no place in our city and communities and we are committed to working with partners to stamp it out. The majority of people do not carry knives and are generally safe within the city. We are putting a lot of work in with schools to educate children and young people about the risks and dangers of carrying knives and weapons, and the dire consequences doing so could have on their future.”
To support the Operation Sceptre campaign, you can share messages on social media using the hashtag #opsceptre.