Police seizing more than 10,000 knives during a week-long campaign has provided insight into what could the norm if the service was adequately funded, says the national chair of the Federation.
All forces joined Operation Sceptre between 11 and 17 March which saw 1,372 people arrested, including 516 for a knife related offence through a series of measures including intelligence-led stop and searches and weapon sweeps.
John Apter, national chair of Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “The staggering amount of knives seized in such a short period of time not only highlights the severity of the issue, but shows just what our hard-working members are able to achieve when they are resourced properly. However, it must be pointed out that operations such like this are only possible if officers are diverted from other vital duties which is a deeply concerning situation.
“It is reassuring to see politicians acknowledging that police alone cannot tackle this epidemic, with a need for investment in other public bodies; but the fact of the matter is policing has been stripped to the bone with almost 22,000 fewer officers on our streets since 2010 along with decimated detective ranks with huge gaps in investigation teams across all 43 forces due to years of austerity measures – which clearly have failed.
“If and when the government decides to start taking the service seriously and provides a meaningful funding deal, operational efforts at this level to remove weapons off our streets and keep our communities safe could become the norm - rather than a national or local crackdown just for a week once a year.”
Officers carried out 3,771 coordinated area searches for weapons and found 342 knives during this. The number of knives surrendered during amnesties was 10,215. In total 10,960 knives were seized, found or surrendered.
Police recorded knife crime offences are at their highest level since comparable data started in 2011, according to the latest ONS crime figures. The statistics show an increase of 6% in the last year.
Separate figures released today following an FOI request from Press Association have also revealed two-thirds of knifepoint robberies in England and Wales go unsolved each year.
Around three in 10 incidents of violence against the person involving a knife also went unsolved, as did around one in six of possession of a bladed weapon.
He continued: “The serious violence we see on our streets is an issue which is not going away, and it symptomatic of the problems permeating thought our society as a result of a decade of cost cutting.
“But this issue is too important to come down to balances on a politician’s spreadsheet. The Government must make significant and sustained investment in policing, and all public services to tackle this national scandal.”
Test purchases of knives were also carried out at 689 stores. Of those tested, 130 shops failed and sold a blade illegally to someone under the age of 18 – a failure rate of almost 19%.
During the last operation in September 2018 there was a failure rate of 20% - with 99 out of 496 stores selling a knife to a child.