Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Knife-carrying down in 'hotspots'

Knives seized by police
Police forces are using stop-and-search tactics to seize knives from youths

The number of teenagers caught carrying knives has fallen in areas where police have specifically targeted knife crime, according to government figures.

Officers from 10 forces in England and Wales have searched 105,000 young people in the six months since the launch of a £2m Home Office campaign.

In June, one in 30 was caught carrying a knife. By October, it was one in 65.

The figures show serious injuries and deaths down 17%. In the UK in 2008, 34 teenagers have died from stab wounds.

Twenty-three of them died in London.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told the BBC she welcomed the progress that had been made, but said: "We also need to prevent young people from picking up a knife in the first place."

You need to have specialist detectives working on these issues
Brian Paddick
Former Met Police deputy assistant commissioner

She announced that an additional £20m would be made available by government to community organisations working with young people to provide alternatives to crime.

"Frankly, I don't think it's an excuse [to say], 'There isn't something for me to do on a Friday night, [so I'll] carry a knife on our streets'," she said.

"But I do think in the longer run, providing those alternatives helps to ensure that young people know there is something positive that they can be doing rather than carrying a knife."

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said "concerted and tough action" was needed "in the short, medium and long term".

"As well as deploying more police onto every street for good, knife offenders must face an automatic presumption of jail, not a slap on the wrist," he said.

"We must also address the fundamental causes of crime, like drugs, unemployment and family breakdown, which Labour have simply neglected over the last 11 years."

Stop-and-search

However, the Home Office - which launched its Tackling Knives Action Programme in June - defended its work.

KNIFE CRIME CRACKDOWN
Map of police forces involved in knife crackdown

1. Lancashire
2. Merseyside
3. West Yorkshire
4. Greater Manchester
5. Nottinghamshire
6. West Midlands
7. South Wales
8. Thames Valley
9. Essex
10. London

It said more than 2,200 knives had been seized during targeted stop-and-search operations and that courts were getting tougher with offenders.

The home secretary said the 10 force areas taking part in the programme accounted for 80% of serious violence involving a knife.

They are London, Essex, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Merseyside, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, South Wales and Thames Valley.

The tactics employed there include:

• Sting operations by trading standards officers to target traders who sell knives to under-18s

• Providing an extra 85 metal detecting search arches and 566 "wands" for use in anti-knife operations in nightclubs, schools and railway stations

• Education programmes in schools to warn teenagers about the dangers of knives

• Warning parents by letter if a young person in their child's peer group is arrested for knife crime

• Cutting police red tape by reducing the number of forms officers must fill in following a stop-and-search

Kit Malthouse, deputy London mayor for policing, welcomed the figures, but said: "We recognise that, along with urgent police measures, we also need to achieve a cultural shift in the long-term in order to tackle the problem."

He said the mayor's office was trying to tackle the root causes of teenage violence through supporting young offenders, dealing with truancy and helping young people develop character and self-esteem.

Role models

Former Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that stop-and-search must be used "intelligently and sensitively".

But he tougher enforcement was needed to deal with “organised gangs".

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

"You need to have specialist detectives working on these issues, trying to dismantle these gangs, trying to bring cases of conspiracy to commit violent offences, which community police are not equipped to deal with," he said.

Actor Femi Oyeniran grew up in north London and appeared in the film Kidulthood about youth gang culture. He told the BBC that providing positive role models to black boys was vital.

"You need to install them with more ambition, more drive. Show them more positive young people from their community," he said.

"People that have gone on to do better things with themselves, even though they didn't come from the most privileged background in the world."



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Northern Echo Stabbings down in knife hotspots - 13 hrs ago
Leigh Today Stabbings down in knife hotspots Stabbings have fallen in areas targeted by a police crackdown on knife crime, Home Office figures reveal. Figures from knife crime hotspots revealed the number of youngsters admitted to hospital with stab wounds - 14 hrs ago
Milton Keynes Citizen Crime falls in knife crackdown areas - 16 hrs ago



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