Knife crime keeps rising in Norfolk while police target violent gangs
Knife crime continues to rise in the wake of violent drug gangs as the county’s police commissioner said the force is “able to cope with demand”.
In the week the Home Office published its Serious Violence Strategy to prevent young people equipping themselves with weapons, new figures reveal knife crime in Norfolk has tripled since 2013.
Norfolk Constabulary recorded 269 crimes in which knives were used between October 2016 and September 2017, an increase of 186pc on the same period in 2012-13.
Violent crime associated with drugs has been a focus for Norfolk Constabulary since November 2016, when it declared a critical incident in response to a number of stabbings county-wide.
Operation Gravity was launched and focused on disrupting the flow of drugs into Norfolk - stemming the tide of associated violence.
In the last 12 months 350 arrests have been made, and knives are routinely seized by officers.
The issue has become a national focus after a spike in violent crime in the capital.
In a speech announcing the Serious Violence Strategy, home secretary Amber Rudd said that there were strong links between the rise in knife crime and drug dealing, with over half of deaths since 2014 involving a victim or a suspect using or dealing drugs.
Among the measures announced were new restrictions to be placed on the online sale of knives, and a complete ban on certain weapons, including zombie knives.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk Lorne Green said despite the force having fewer resources, “the officers we have on the ground are able to cope with the demand”.
“The constabulary has had enormous success with Operation Gravity which is stemming the flow but it can’t let up,” he said. “We are taking more knives off the street and arresting more people.
“We have lost several hundred police officers in recent years and we would like to have more, but full credit to the chief constable for transforming the force so it is fit for purpose for the modern challenges of crime.
“We are in an age where young people are challenged by the pervasive drug culture, deprivation in some areas and a lack of family structure in some cases.
“All those combine to make some people less sensitive to causing harm.”
In Suffolk the number of knife crimes has risen to 232 and in Cambridgeshire the number has more than doubled to 517.
Norfolk remains safe
Deputy Chief Constable Nick Dean said: “Norfolk Police takes any crimes involving knives, whether that be possession or violence, extremely seriously.
“Whilst knife crime has increased in the county, as has been seen nationally, it is still low in comparison to other areas of the UK. Norfolk has less than one crime per 1000 head of population in relation to possession of weapons, which demonstrates how safe the county is and should reassure the public how seriously we take this issue.
“The rise in knife crime in Norfolk was partly expected due to the pro-active work undertaken in Operation Gravity, which was launched to specifically target violent offences involving knives by those involved in illegal drug activity.
“We have been working with local secondary schools to educate young people about the dangers of knife crime, as well as working with partner agencies to identify those at risk of becoming involved in this kind of crime.”
Fewer stop and searches
An investigation by this newspaper in September last year identified the stark rise in knife crime in the county.
It found the rise in knife crime nationally and in Norfolk has coincided with a fall in the number of people stopped and searched by police. That fell from being used 568 times by Norfolk police in June 2015 to 129 last June.
Assistant Chief Constable Paul Sanford said at the time that generally more people appeared to be carrying knives.
“In part it is because we have been out looking and therefore we have been finding more,” he said.
“However it is an unavoidable truth that for a small number of people in the county, carrying of knives is becoming all too frequent.
“Research shows if you are carrying a knife the person most likely to get stabbed by it is you.”
Police are focusing on educating young people, with figures showing those aged 10 to 19 make up the largest proportion of those arrested for knife crime in Norfolk.
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