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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 April 2006, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Knife scanners to be used UK-wide
Tube passengers
The operation has led to 100 arrests
The use of metal detectors to catch people carrying knives is to be extended by British Transport Police across the UK, the BBC has learned.

Operation Shield was launched in London two months ago to target those carrying knives on the Tube network and trains.

Police with stop-and-search powers and sniffer dogs use mobile airport-style scanners to check passengers.

Since it began, almost 10,000 people have been scanned, 100 have been arrested and 68 knives seized.

The initiative is already up and running in Liverpool. It is due to start in Birmingham this month and in north-east England in May, and will eventually be used UK-wide.

'Extremely successful'

Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Shanahan, who has overseen the operation, said it had been a good result.

Suspects had been arrested by plain clothes officers after backing away from the metal detector, he said.

"Part of our remit is to reassure the public and demonstrate that we are challenging the knife-carrying culture," he said.

What needs to be looked at is why so many people feel uneasy, and then carry a knife
Shaun Bailey, community worker

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said the trials had been "extremely successful".

He told the BBC's Sunday AM programme that the technology would now be employed at stations in other cities including Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff.

"It will be across the country," he said. "It won't be there all the time. Obviously local police have to use their judgment as to when they deploy officers on the scanning equipment."

But London community worker Shaun Bailey said that many young people carried knives because they felt uneasy.

"Where the real problems start, with the young people in particular, is when they carry a knife for use of defence," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

"They're called offensive weapons for a reason - you cannot defend yourself with a knife, you can only ever attack someone - but lots of young people carry them for a fashion statement because they feel uneasy.

"What needs to be looked at is why so many people feel uneasy, and then carry a knife."

Home Office figures released in January showed violent crime in England and Wales rose 4% between July and September last year.

Conservative homeland security spokesman Patrick Mercer welcomed the move but said detecting potential bombers should be a top priority.

"We welcome any attempt to lessen crime on our transport system but the fact remains that 53 people were killed in the London bombings last year and we currently have no equipment of any sort anywhere in England that can detect explosives.

"There has been one brief trial, on one line, and there are further trials planned but these are the sort of measures that should have been started in September 2001."

See the metal detectors in action at train stations

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