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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July 2005, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Police condemn knife crime level
Knife
Police have described a "pandemic" of knife attacks
The level of knife crime in the west of Scotland has been described as "appalling" by police after new figures were released.

They reveal that since January there were 13 murders, 145 attempted murders and 1,100 serious assaults.

Murders involving knives in Strathclyde were three-and-a-half times higher than anywhere else in the UK.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, of Strathclyde Police, called it a "knife pandemic".

The totals, from the Violence Reduction Unit of Strathclyde Police, show that every week for the last six months there has been an average of six attempted murders involving a blade and 43 serious attacks.

There'll be some argument about territory, an insult, a woman, football - it might be anything - and a fight will start
John Carnochan
Strathclyde Police

The figures were revised to reflect that most crimes involving knives were not reported.

A recent study in hospitals in Glasgow found that about half of those treated for knife wounds did not report the offences to the police.

Organisations such as the World Health Organization have discovered that the west of Scotland does not compare favourably with western Europe.

The level of knife crime, despite crackdowns such as the Spotlight Initiative and Operation Blade, is more similar to places like Latvia or Moscow.

DCS Carnochan, who heads the Violence Reduction Unit, said: "Its stubbornness is something which shocked us when we looked at it.

"We haven't actually made any appreciable and sustained difference on that propensity for violence that these young men seem to have."

Experts have compiled a profile of how a knife crime occurs. Typically, it involves two people aged between 15 and 25, probably from a council house and who have not done well at school.

Hugh Henry
Hugh Henry: "We need to change culture"

They go out for a drink on a Friday or Saturday night carrying a knife "for protection".

DCS Carnochan said: "These young men will meet some other young men.

"There'll be some argument about territory, an insult, a woman, football, it might be anything, and a fight will start.

"That's when a knife takes on real, fatal, consequences because somebody's going to end up dead and some young man's going to end up doing time - life - for murder."

Mr Carnochan said the young men may have carried knives many times before and nothing happened.

Licensing scheme

He said: "One night they're out and they stab somebody and all of a sudden they're spending life in prison.

"They'll be 31 or 32 before they come out and I'll bet when they left the house that their intention was not to murder."

Last year First Minister Jack McConnell revealed a proposed five-point programme to clamp down on knife crime, including a licensing scheme for retailers selling knives.

There is something profoundly wrong in our society when many young men think it's acceptable to carry knives
Hugh Henry
Deputy Justice Minister

Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry said the level of knife attacks in the west of Scotland was unacceptable and must be tackled.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, he said: "We need to change the culture of violence.

"There is something profoundly wrong in our society when many young men think it's acceptable to carry knives for whatever loose reason they can justify to themselves."

He added: "That's why we want to bring in longer sentences and give the police more powers.

"I think it's right that the courts have the option of tougher sentences, but that the courts make the decision on each individual case about whether it requires the maximum sentence or something different."

Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan said he wanted a mandatory sentence for carrying a weapon.

Slashed face
The terrible consequences of a knife attack in Scotland

"If we focus only on the use of a knife, then it's too late - somebody's been stabbed, somebody's been slashed. We need to focus on the carrying of the blade," he said.

"If we can introduce mandatory sentences youngsters will know 'put this in your pocket and you're going to get time'. If they know that, then maybe in the future their behaviour will change."

The Scottish National Party said police should be given extra resources to combat the problem.

Stewart Stevenson, the party's deputy justice spokesman, said the figures were "shocking" and added that anyone caught carrying a knife "should face the full force of the law".

Doctor Jean Moller, from Cape Town, who previously worked in accident and emergency departments in South Africa and Australia, said she was shocked at the number of knife attacks she has dealt with in Glasgow.

She said: "Having moved to Glasgow I have been quite surprised at the high level of violent crime I've seen in the emergency departments here.

"It does seem to have a knife culture prevalent throughout the community."

She added: "I clearly remember my first weekend working in Glasgow and I was horrified at the number of assaults - specifically stabbings and slashings - I had to deal with."




SEE ALSO
Crackdown targets knife culture
22 Nov 04 |  Scotland
Stabbings 'a public health issue'
17 Oct 04 |  Scotland
Weapons seized by metal detectors
01 Mar 04 |  Scotland
Police use knife crime powers
28 Feb 04 |  Scotland

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