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Page last updated at 16:27 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009
Teenage knife crime is falling

By Jim Reed
Newsbeat reporter

Murdered teenager Rob Knox
Harry Potter actor Rob Knox (right) was murdered in Sidcup last May

Doctors are dealing with fewer teenage stab victims and more young people are being locked up for carrying blades, according to the latest government figures.

In the 12 months to November 2008, 995 13 to 19-year-olds were sent to hospitals in England with stab wounds, a 14% fall on the year before.

The numbers give the first proper idea of the scale of knife crime since the government vowed to get tough on blades last summer.

Since then, millions of pounds has been spent buying equipment like knife arches and search wands.

Police have been given more powers to stop and search people and visit the parents of teenagers they suspect of carrying blades.

Ten areas targeted by the government under the Tackling Knives Action Plan, including London, Manchester and Nottingham, have seen a 17% fall in teenage hospital admissions compared with a 8% fall in other areas.

Statistics row

Politicians reckon the figures show they are starting to get a grip on knife crime.

A series of fatal stabbings in London and across the country last year caused alarm partly because of the young age of a number of the victims.

Knives recovered in London
Only one in 10 young knife carriers will be locked up straight away

But the hospital stats show the drop in knife crime is much less than the government had first suggested at the end of the last year.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was forced to apologise in December after releasing some of the data early for political reasons before it had been properly checked.

Back then she claimed the number of people taken to hospital with stab wounds in 'target areas' had fallen 27%.

The actual final figure from the NHS statistics office was 18%.

Opposition MPs reckon more people should be sent straight to prison for carrying a knife.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that one in 10 young people caught with a blade will be locked up straight away.

Most 13 to 17-year-olds are still given a suspended or community sentence, like a fine, curfew or compulsory work.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw told 1Xtra News that more teenagers were now being given full prison sentences for possession.

"The plan is working but we would like to see overall knife crime fall more and we believe it will," he said.

"The length of time people are serving (for knife possession) is increasing and that is going to make a big difference."



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