Avon and Somerset Police’s work to tackle knife crime and serious violence will be intensified this week, as officers take part in a week of action aimed at reducing the number of knives on the streets.
The initiative will also see young people being educated about the dangers of carrying a knife.
The force has been taking part in Operation Sceptre regularly since 2016, an initiative led by the Metropolitan Police which sees police forces around the country focus their efforts in a co-ordinated way.
This week’s operation runs from Saturday 9th March to Sunday 17th March, and will incorporate several tactics, including education of both young people and retailers, targeted patrols of hot spot areas, weapons sweeps and knife surrender bins.
Avon and Somerset Police already have permanent knife surrender bins in place at a number of locations, including a new permanent bin in Weston-super-Mare at the police enquiry office at the town hall, but will also have temporary surrender bins in place at additional locations in Bristol and Somerset for the foreseeable future.
Since the force started taking part in the operation in October 2016, just over 1700 knives have been surrendered to bins across the force area.
Police have visited retailers in the lead up to the week’s initiative to provide education and guidance around selling knives to young people.
This week they will be attending a number of retailers, where intelligence suggests that they have recently sold a knife to a person under the age of 18, and where appropriate, retailers will be educated around their responsibilities, or they will be prosecuted.
This coming Friday and Saturday night, 15 and 16th March, officers will be working with licensed premises in Bristol, Bath and Weston-super-Mare, speaking to customers about the risks of carrying knives, and supporting door staff during entry searches for any people found with a knife.
Chief Inspector Zoe Chegwyn, who leads on knife crime for Avon and Somerset Police said: “The Op Sceptre weeks of action are an important time in our calendar, as we can really focus on enforcement activity which has a direct impact on the number of knives on our streets, where they can and do cause serious harm.
“By using a range of tactics and approaches, we can visibly show communities the ways in which we are working to reduce the impact of knives on people’s lives.
“The government’s Serious Violence Strategy is clear that police enforcement alone is not going to stop knife crime; we must take a holistic approach and work alongside other agencies in health, local government, the charitable sector and local communities to understand the reasons that young people are arming themselves in this way, and how we can prevent and reduce this.
“I want to stress that our educational work with young people is on-going and not just limited to our weeks of action. However, we will step it up this week in schools and youth clubs, with local officers delivering hard hitting workshops which really bring home the impact knives can have not just on individuals, but on families and communities.
“We also want to let young people know that if they are worried that someone they know is carrying a knife, but are nervous about talking to the police, that they can contact Fearless (The Crimestoppers youth arm) anonymously and potentially help to save a life.”
Avon and Somerset has seen a 52 per cent increase in reports of knife related crime in a twelve month period, from July 2018.
From April 2017 to April 2018, there were 1835 incidents compared with 1201 incidents from April 2016 – April 2017 which is an increase of 634 crimes.
Only incidents related to the public carrying or using a knife are included. Other offences where a knife was used, for example in Domestic Incidents, both family and partner relationships, are not included in these figures.
In the last twelve months, January – December 2018, there were 538 knife related crimes which resulted in an injury which equates to seven per cent of total knife-related crime reported.
Chief Inspector Chegwyn added: “Although a 52% increase in one year does sound alarming, this is down to the way we are now recording and collating information on our systems.
“So incidents where a knife is mentioned, even relating to another offence such as burglary or robbery, are now deemed a knife-related incident, when previously they weren’t.
“We are also seeing increases in the number of intelligence reports submitted and it is important to note that only small percentage of knife crimes result in an injury.
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens added: “Knives do not keep you safe. Young people need to be aware that by carrying a knife, you are putting yourself in much greater danger and are more likely to become involved in a violent situation.
“I fully support the Constabulary’s involvement with Op Sceptre. We need to do everything we can through education, police enforcement and sentencing to make it absolutely clear it is never acceptable for a person to carry a knife or a weapon.
“The week of action means the police can really focus on taking these knives off the street so they cannot be used to do serious harm, as well as to educate our young people about the dangers of knife crime.”
Permanent surrender bins are now in place in the following locations:
- Bridewell Police Custody Centre – Bristol
- Patchway Police Custody Centre – South Glos
- Keynsham Police Custody Centre – BANES
- Bridgwater Police Custody Centre – Somerset
- Weston-super-Mare – Town Hall
Further temporary surrender bins will be in place for the duration of the operation at:
- Frome police post in the town centre – Somerset
- Broadbury Road Police Station – Bristol
- Trinity Road Police station – Bristol
- Bristol Magistrates Court
- Bristol Crown Court