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Last Updated: Monday, 18 February 2008, 14:07 GMT
Action plan targets knife crime
Schoolchildren may have to pass through metal detectors
Police are to get airport-style metal detectors in a crackdown on knife crime in England and Wales being launched by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

The Tackling Violence Action Plan also aims to identify and "manage" those likely to become violent criminals.

Medical staff will be expected to share data on victims of attacks to build up a "picture of violence" in an area.

But the Conservatives criticised the move as an exercise in "papering over the cracks".

It comes amid concern about alcohol fuelled trouble, as well as an increase in the use of knives, linked to 258 deaths in 2006-7 up from 219 in 2005-6.

Plans include new measures to fight guns, gangs, binge drinking and rape. Those found carrying a knife are likely to be prosecuted and tougher sentences imposed for knife crime.

Police, probation and local authorities will be expected to identify and share information about people who are at risk of committing violent crimes - or likely to become a victim.

Paedophile convictions

Medical staff treating the victims of violent attacks will be expected to pass on information to the police to build up a "more accurate picture of violence in that area" - following schemes in Cardiff and Merseyside.

The Home Office says less than half of violent crimes are reported, but sharing information can help identify vulnerable people like domestic violence victims, trends in weapons and local violence "hotspots".

Police will be given 110 portable metal detector knife arches and 400 search wands that are understood to be small enough to fit in the back of a police car and be taken to pubs, clubs, schools or wherever they are needed.

There will also be a 1m awareness campaign that will seek to convince young people who carry a knife for safety, that it actually increases their risk of being a stabbing victim.

We are determined not to let violent offenders get away with wrecking lives by stopping them committing crimes in the first place
Jacqui Smith
Home Secretary

The number of Sexual Assault Referral Centres for victims of sexual violence will be increased from 19 to 48 to cover every part of the country.

In the police force areas of Cleveland, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire and Warwickshire, a pilot scheme will allow parents to check whether people with unsupervised contact with their children have paedophile convictions.

The action plan will also aim to build on a recent drive to clamp down on the sale of alcohol to under-18s.

The Home Office said that although just 1% of crime involves serious violence, alcohol is a factor in almost half of all violent incidents.

'Terrible suffering'

Ms Smith said: "Every shooting or stabbing, every rape, every child sexually abused, every case of someone suffering domestic violence is one too many.

"Serious violent crime accounts for 1% of all crime, but where it does occur, it devastates lives, blights communities with fear and causes terrible suffering not just for victims but for their families and friends as well.

"We are determined not to let violent offenders get away with wrecking lives by stopping them committing crimes in the first place.

"That is why I am today pledging that by 2011, we will have reduced serious violent crime, including gun and gang-related violence, knife crime, sexual and domestic violence and improved the criminal justice response to these offences."

The government has utterly failed to take the kind of decisive - and sustained - action needed to clamp down on knife crime
David Davis
Shadow home secretary

Another major plank in the strategy will be an expectation on police, probation and local authorities to identify and pool information about people considered at risk of offending.

The initiative will extend a system already in place in about 100 areas aimed at tackling domestic violence.

The arrangements are to be extended across England and Wales, and will focus on other types of violence and perpetrators as well as victims.

In future, there will be an obligation on officials to pass on information about people who are involved, for example, in gangs, in order to intervene early.

But Tory shadow home secretary David Davis said: "I welcome any practical measure to curb the appalling rise of knife crime.

"But fatal stabbings have increased by over a quarter under Labour, and the government has utterly failed to take the kind of decisive - and sustained - action needed to clamp down on knife crime."

Hull teenager on why he used to carry a knife

At a glance: Anti-violence measures
18 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
Under-18s may face new drink ban
07 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
Metal detectors plan for schools
21 Jan 08 |  Education
Lessons learned in knife class
08 Nov 07 |  Magazine

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