No stone left unturned as police swoop on Preston neighbourhood in the fight against knife crime
Police are leaving no stone unturned in their battle to rid Lancashire’s streets of fearsome weapons of crime.
And with knife offences having soared by 65 per cent in less than 10 years across the county, officers were out in force yesterday searching for blades and other sharp implements which could be used to kill or injure.
A team swooped on the Broadgate area of Preston to carry out a detailed sweep as part of Operation Sceptre, a week-long national initiative which targets knife crime.
Watched by Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw, officers searched through hedges, disused sheds and the grounds of a school for weapons which may have been hidden or discarded.
The search followed recent finds in that area of the city, including a terrifying Black Panther sword. A knife was also found discarded in a school play area.
“We have had several reports from members of the public who have discovered weapons in that area,” said Sgt Nick Miller who is co-ordinating Operation Sceptre this week in the division covering Preston, Leyland, Chorley and Skelmersdale.
“The Black Panther machete was just one weapon and there were one or two others of a similar nature. Incredibly these things can be bought for as little as £20 online.
“A knife was also found in the school grounds which looked to have been discarded. With most of these finds you never know whether they have been discarded or strategically placed.”
Sgt Miller, who works on the force’s violence reduction network, led a team of around 10 officers searching through undergrowth. On the day they found several items which they believed “could have been used as weapons.”
Operation Sceptre runs from yesterday to Sunday and involves most police forces across England and Wales focusing on knife crime and serious violence.
In Lancashire neighbourhood policing teams have put together a programme of activities throughout the week aimed at people who carry blades.
The initiative is also designed to be high-profile to show the public that knife crime is being treated as a police priority.
“We want to reassure the public that only one per cent of all crime in Lancashire is knife-enabled and that is down to the ongoing work by police,” explained Sgt Miller.
“We had the mobile police station down there and all our officers were wearing high-viz so the people living in that neighbourhood could see we were there and doing something about this problem of knives.
“We had originally planned this operation for March, but it had to be postponed because of Covid. I’m very pleased how it went.”
Lancashire Police have also brought in knife surrender bins again for the public to hand in weapons. But this time they are not asking people to make special journeys due to lockdown.
“Because people are only allowed to make essential journeys we only want people to use the knife surrender bins if they are passing while making an essential trip,” said Sgt Miller.
“The last ting we want is to invite people out when they should be staying at home. We don’t want a good thing to be seen as a bad thing.”
As part of Operation Sceptre, warrants under the misuse of Drugs Act are set to be executed in some areas this week.
Commission Grunshaw said: “I am fully supportive of Lancashire Constabulary’s bid to remove knives from our streets. No-one should live in fear of knives being used in their community.
“I am committed to tackling violent crime and ensuring that – above all else – residents feel safe and secure. Tackling crime and developing safe and confident communities are key priorities for me and policing alone cannot prevent people offending.
“We need to work together to tackle violent crime and make Lancashire safer.”
If you have any information about knife crime in Lancashire call 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
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