Page last updated at 11:45 GMT, Saturday, 5 July 2008 12:45 UK

Taskforce to tackle knife crime

Knives seized by police during Operation Blunt 2
Operation Blunt 2 recovered a total of 528 knives

A dedicated 75-strong taskforce to target London gangs and knife crime has been set up by the Metropolitan Police.

Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson said tackling knife crime was the force's "number one priority".

He said the officers could be rapidly deployed to potential trouble-spots in the worst affected areas of London.

One of their tactics will be to use metal-detecting equipment to help catch youths who may be prepared to use weapons, such as knives.

Teams of officers had been already been deployed to trouble hotspots in Operation Blunt 2 which ran from 19 May and 29 June.

Police used metal detectors and stopped people using powers under Section 60 of the Public Order Act, which allows them to search targets under the presumption of reasonable suspicion.

Community support

Earlier this week, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair announced that 1,214 people were arrested for possession of weapons and other knife-related crimes as part of Operation Blunt 2.

A total of 528 knives were recovered as a result of 26,777 searches, after the blitz was launched in response to a wave of killings, particularly among teenagers, in London.

Mr Stephenson told a Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) meeting on Friday: "Sadly, in recent days two more young people have been stabbed to death. Clearly the message is not getting through.

"To build on the co-ordinated activity already being carried out by all 32 London police borough command units under Blunt 2, we are increasing the police officer strengths in those boroughs most affected with immediate effect with the establishment of a dedicated 75-strong Blunt 2 taskforce."

Thousands of people now have been stopped and searched in London and we do think that's having some effect
Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor for Policing

Mr Stephenson said fewer people were being cautioned in relation to knife crime, with 95% of those arrested being charged if there was sufficient evidence.

He accepted that "our actions impact on all of London's young people, the vast majority of whom do not carry knives or have any involvement in gangs" and said the Section 60 powers "significantly increased the number of young people being stopped and searched".

But he said he believed the police had the support of the community as well as young people.

On Saturday, Deputy Mayor for Policing, Kit Malthouse, told BBC News that both short-term and long-term measures were being rolled out in the capital to confront the problem.

He said: "We were very pleased that the Met [Metropolitan] police brought forward Operation Blunt Two, this very assertive use of stop and search powers, knife arches, metal detecting wands, but as I say 26,000 or 27,000 people now have been stopped and searched in London and we do think that's having some effect.

"What we also though have to do is put in place some of these long-term complex interventions with young people to turn their faces away from a life of violence."

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