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Last Updated: Monday, 19 March 2007, 17:48 GMT
Reid steps up knife crime fight
Home Secretary John Reid
John Reid announced new measures in the Commons
Home Secretary John Reid has announced measures to improve the recording of knife crime following a series of fatal stabbings.

Mr Reid told the Commons that, from next month, data on serious offences involving knives and sharp instruments would be recorded separately.

This would provide "a more detailed understanding" of the problem, he said.

Five fatal stabbings over the past week have led to calls for knife crimes to be recorded and for tougher penalties.

Mr Reid also pledged to improve facilities to allow the public to pass on information about knife crime to the authorities.

"We need to take action before, as well after, the awful headlines we have seen," he told Parliament during a debate on the subject.

"I don't think I have pretended today to be offering a solution because I don't think it is within the power of government alone to offer such a solution.

"I think it has to involve personal and parental responsibility as well as the local community. "

Data call

Earlier, criminologist Marian Fitzgerald, a former Home Office adviser on crime and race, told BBC News the government had not taken the issue of knives as seriously as guns.

"With firearms, the police are required to record if an offence involved the use of a firearm," said Ms Fitzgerald, who now works at the University of Kent.

"They're not similarly required to record whether it involved the use of a knife."

Use of weapons graph

Official figures show there has not been a rise in knife-related murders, but she said the lack of data on other knife crime left researchers "in the dark".

"Unless you've got that trend data you don't know whether the problem is going up or down - and certainly you don't know whether anything you do to tackle it is making any difference," she added.

Alf Hitchcock, spokesman on knives for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), backed the collection of separate data on the use of knives and said that recent events had "raised concerns".

But Mr Hitchcock, who is also deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, added that it was not just a policing issue but one "for society as a whole".

"Long-term reduction of these types of offences needs to be closely linked to wider social issues, such as parenting, the moral compass of some young people and broader societal issues," he added.

Adam Regis, 15, was stabbed to death in London at the weekend, only days after 16-year-old Kodjo Yenga was killed.

Kevin Platt, 30, was fatally stabbed to death in Manchester on Friday, and two other men, aged 21 and 24, were killed in separate incidents in the city.

Sentence pledge

Prime Minister Tony Blair branded the series of fatal stabbings "horrific", but pledged tougher sentences to help tackle violent crime.

The new Violent Crime Reduction Act would allow courts to pass "much tougher sentences", he said.

But the prime minister said the most serious violent crime rates were falling.

"I do think we need specific measures directed at gangs, guns and knives," he said.

Opposition politicians have also stressed the importance of tackling the issue.

Knives handed in to a Metropolitan Police knife amnesty
Of 820 homicides in 2004/05, 236 (29%) were killed with sharp instrument
This was the most common method of killing
Knives were used in 6% of all violent crimes 2004/05

Source: British Crime Survey

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell called for a mandatory five-year sentence for carrying a knife.

And shadow home affairs minister Edward Garnier stressed the need to "inculcate into [youngsters] the culture that carrying a knife can be fatal".

Under current laws, it is an offence to carry a knife in public without good reason or lawful authority - with the exception of a folding pocket knife with a blade less than 3in (7.5cm) in length.

The maximum sentence for carrying an offensive weapon was raised from two to four years' imprisonment last year.

And police launched a knife amnesty last summer, during which more than 100,000 weapons were handed in.

Tony Blair responds to questions about violent crime

Two men questioned over stabbing
19 Mar 07 |  Manchester

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