Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa has stressed the importance of education in challenging the knife carrying culture that exists among some street gangs as latest knife crime figures were revealed.
Data presented to the PCC at his Strategic Governance Board meeting held on Monday (19 September) shows knife-related offences in the county have grown in the past 12 months from 297 in 2014-15 to 350 in 2015-16 – back to the same level as in 2013-14.
Figures show most of the knife crime incidents reported take place in and around Derby City with South Division seeing more than twice the volume of knife-related incidents than the North Division.
Knife crime currently accounts for 4% of all offences recorded in Derbyshire – the same level as 2014-15 and less than 2013/24 which stood at 5%.
However, it is noted that the force’s definition of knife crime includes situations where a knife or sharp instrument has been used although not necessarily to threaten or cause injury such as a burglary where a knife is used on a window to force entry.
This is different to the Home Office’s definition which refers to violent or sexual offences that involve either injury or the threat of injury in which a knife or sharp instrument is used.
Nationally, knife crime has increased by 9% according to Home Office figures.
A series of police awareness and enforcement campaigns are in place to drive home the message that carrying a knife is dangerous and the PCC said the power of education to disrupt false beliefs about self-protection should not be underestimated.
“One of the best ways of portraying the gravity of carrying a knife is to present young people with real life examples of what can go wrong,” said Mr Dhindsa.
“The presentations we’re delivering in schools, with the City Council, involve real victims and perpetrators sharing their personal stories of gang and knife crime and the devastating consequences of carrying a blade for protection. This is exactly the type of impact-driven education that can change attitudes, turn around lives and prevent tragedies.
“This prevention strategy is supported by tougher sentencing guidelines introduced last year which set a minimum six-month jail term for a second strike of knife possession for anyone over the age of 18 and a four-month term for 16 and 17-year-olds.
“However, as these latest figures show, there is clearly more work to do and it’s vital we continue to work together as partners to reach inaccessible young people who are involved in gang culture, have deep rooted social or familial problems and for whom violence has become a way of life.
“Tackling knife crime is a priority in line with my Police and Crime Plan Objective 3 (to keep people, especially the most vulnerable, safe from harm, ASB and criminal activities) and I will be touring schools in the coming months to see the prevention work in action.”
In January this year, the force and its key partners implemented Project Zao to educate and prevent the use of knives by young people across the south of the county.
The joint project, which involves Derby City Council’s education and social care departments and colleagues from probation services, has led to the development of a bespoke video and presentation identifying the consequences of knife crime.
The project, which is delivered to all secondary school children by specially trained police officers and PCSOs, features real victims and perpetrators and will continue throughout 2016/17. It also includes dedicated patrols promoting the awareness campaign within the Night Time Economy.
Other proactive work includes promotion of the Fearless Campaign, run by Crimestoppers for people aged 11 to 16, which is being delivered in schools to identify who might be carrying knives.
A new referral process has also been established directly from schools to the Enthusiasm Youth Scheme, funded by the City Council, which enables those involved in knife crime to be educated and mentored to prevent further incidents.
Meanwhile, a knife sweep conducted as part of Project Zao in May 2016 netted 392 knives across 13 sites. A similar sweep saw 230 knives surrendered in 2013.
“Every possession of a knife is a tragedy waiting to happen, regardless of whether the perpetrator sets out to harm someone,” said Mr Dhindsa.
“We need to expose the truth and help young people to understand that carrying a knife is dangerous.”
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Posted on Wednesday 21st September 2016