Number of times people caught carrying weapons in Norfolk rises by 50% in one year
PUBLISHED: 07:11 21 July 2019 | UPDATED: 07:11 21 July 2019
The number of times people were caught carrying weapons in Norfolk has risen by almost 50pc in one year - the highest increase in the country.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, released on Thursday, the number of possession of weapon offences recorded by police rose by 45pc in just 12 months.
It meant that in the year ending March 2019, there were 615 offences recorded.
The 45pc increase was the highest around the country, and far higher than the regional average for the east of 12pc.
The data showed that total recorded crime in Norfolk - excluding fraud - has increased by 8pc year-on-year, with violence against the person offences up 19pc, and stalking and harassment crimes up 37pc.
Concerns over knife crime in Norfolk are nothing new, with figures rising across the county in the wake of County Lines and violent drug dealing.
MORE: Gang of 30 youths armed with knives and dealing drugs in Chapelfield Gardens
Earlier this week, police launched an operation against a gang of roughly 30 young people who are known to carry knives in Chapelfield Gardens in Norwich, with sergeant Mark Shepherd warning that "they may look young, but they are carrying knives".
It is one of several operations to crackdown on drug dealing and violent crime launched in the last few years, including Operation Gravity and Granary.
Figures show that the proportion of serious offences - including homicide, robbery and rape - which involved a knife worked out as 3pc in the year to March 2019.
The number that involved a knife has risen by 80pc in the last eight years.
In Norwich, the Wensum Residents Association is aiming to reclaim its local park, amid ongoing drug use and violence. In July last year, a teenage boy was shot at the park, off West End Street and Adelaide Street.
Alison Ledington is organising a community event at the park on July 28 to once again bring it back into community use.
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She said: "There seems to be quite a sudden, dramatic increase [in knife crime]. Obviously we know that London is particularly bad and now it seems to be spreading out.
"Whether that relates to County Lines, I don't know, but the majority of people in the distribution of drugs would be carrying weapons."
She said it was an enormous problem to solve, but that support for mental health problems and facilities for teenagers should be improved.
While the possession of weapons figure has risen, the overall crime rate in Norfolk remains the lowest in the east, with 67.8 crimes per 1,000 people.
MORE: 'Reclaim the streets' - call for community action to tackle drug crime
Burglaries have also declined, down 13pc overall and 18pc for residential burglaries.
But also on the decline is the number of crimes leading to a charge, according to new Home Office figures, which were also released on Thursday.
In the year ending March 2017, 18.1pc of overall crimes resulted in a charge, falling to 15.2pc the following year and just 9.4pc in the year ending March 2019.
The decline is not reflected in Suffolk, where the figure has fluctuated from 12.6pc in 2017, down to 11pc and back up to 12pc.
Simon Crawford, from the Russell Street Residents Association, said problems around drugs had become "massive", and that the main issue with possession of weapons was the "concealment".
"You are not going to know if someone has a weapon unless they have a problem with you," he said. "There lies the problem - it's the concealment.
"You won't know, until someone is trying to rob or hurt you."
Deputy Chief Constable Paul Sanford said: "It is pleasing to see Norfolk remains one of the safest places to live, having one of the lowest crime rates in the East of England. "We have increased the number of police officers in the last two years are confident this is part of the reason we seeing a reduction in crimes such as burglary and theft." Our use of a range of modern day policing tools is driving out acquisitive crime across the County.
"It is of concern that violent crime continues to rise along with robbery, sexual offences and possession of weapons. We believe the reasons for this are complex, with the rise being a result of improved recording and more offences taking place involving the vulnerable. Our analysis of the crimes finds that the vast majority of violent crime is being committed by those who are known to each other and often previously known to the police. We need to work with partners to prevent these offences from occurring by intervening earlier and tackling the causes of crime."