'One incident is still too many': Lancashire Police force clamp down on knife crime in county

Officers will be conducting knife sweeps, using metal detecting wands and visiting schools over the coming week in a bid to tackle knife crime levels in the county.

Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 10:56 am

Operation Sceptre, which will run until May 2, will see police ramp up their efforts to take a stand against knife crime in Lancashire and educate youths on the dangers of carrying weapons.

And with the help of Byron Highton, whose brother JonJo was brutally stabbed to death in 2014, police hope it will "break down barriers" between them and young people, through his work as director of the JJEffect charity tackling gang culture.

This scheme comes as Lancashire police revealed that knife crimes had dropped by almost 10 per cent in the past year, with less than one per cent of crimes in the borough relating to knives.

This morning, when conducting a knife sweep at Preston's Grange Park, officers uncovered a small knife that had been left dumped there.

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Inspector Dave Oldfield of Lancashire Violence Reduction Network told the Post: “As we come out of pandemic restrictions and our lives get back to normal we urge anyone who carries a knife to stop and think before putting a knife in their pocket.

"Think about how your life could be changed if your knife was used against you and think about the long-term impact that could have on your family.

Lancashire Police are completing knife sweeps in city hotspots

“It’s illegal to carry a knife without a reasonable purpose and it’s illegal to use a knife in a threatening way. People can and do end up in prison.

“Fortunately, at less than one per cent, knife crime is low in Lancashire compared with other parts of the country. But, one incident is one too many and we are committed to doing everything we can to tackle the root causes of serious violence, together with partner organisations, to ensure that people in Lancashire feel safe.”

Lancashire Police will join all other police forces across England and Wales in supporting the national week of intensive police action against knife crime starting today and ensure people in the borough feel safe from knife crime.

The scheme will see them visiting local shops to give advice on the laws on selling knives; conducting knife sweeps in public places; using metal-detecting wands to identify people who are carrying knives and visiting schools to provide education to young people.

Byron Highton and his work with his charity are helping to guide the initiative in Lancashire

And the operation links closely with Lancashire Police’s longer-term Operation Edge initiative, which focuses on reducing and preventing violent crime involving knives and bladed weapons, which has seen over 7,000 knives and weapons removed from Lancashire's streets.

The news comes as the Lancashire police force confirmed that knife-related crimes have dropped by almost 10 per cent in the past year.

The Post can reveal that there were 1,030 recorded crimes related to knives between April last year and March 2021, a nine per cent decrease on the previous year.

And knife-related crimes in the South division, which covers Preston, Chorley, South Ribble, Ormskirk and Skelmersdale saw a six per cent drop, with 353 crimes reported.

Officers found a knife when searching Grange Park in Preston

This change has been driven by a combination of prevention, enforcement and intelligence-led work by Lancashire and neighbourhood police teams, with some aspects focused on hot-spot areas.

And in a bid to continue tackling the issue, 17 permanent knife bins remain in operation across the county.

With knife crime sitting at a relatively low level in Lancashire, Sergeant Miller was eager to express that although not prominent, the force will continue to tackle the issue year-round.

Speaking to the Post, Sergeant Nick Miller, who manages the operation in Preston, said: "I am responsible for coordinating a response to surge activity in the South Division. As part of this initiative, all police forces will be conducting activity related to knife crime with the assistance of neighbourhood teams.

"We have put together activities for Preston and have dedicated teams to maximise our identification of issues and tackle serious violence. We have identified several hotspot areas for weapon sweeps that we will be carrying out and are conducting several warrants in relation to organised crime.

"We will also be encouraging our officers to stop and search where legal powers allow them to and conduct educational visits to schools over the course of the week to reiterate the dangers and what can happen if people are found carrying weapons.

Lancashire Police are clamping down on knife crime this week

"The initiative encourages people to do the right thing and surrender their weapons completely anonymously and safely. We see knife crime across all ages in Lancashire, but we particularly want to educate young people and make them aware of the risks before they are influenced.

"It is definitely not prominent, but it is still important we do all we can to maintain our activity in tackling knife crime. During this week we will be intensifying a lot of our processes and have pulled in additional resources.

"The police can not single-handedly solve knife crime on their own, we just put a plaster over it as best as we can by arresting and prosecuting criminals. However, there is still a barrier between the police and members of the community who carry weapons, so these initiatives help to break those down."

If you have any information about knife crime in Lancashire, contact the police on 101 or report anonymously to the independent charity, Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111.

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