Avon and Somerset Police has carried out a programme of workshops in schools around Avon and Somerset Police as part of Operation Sceptre.
Operation Sceptre, which ran from 16 to 22 September, is a national initiative led by the Metropolitan Police. It aims to reduce the number of people carrying knives and educate young people on the dangers of carrying a knife.
Officers have been visiting schools across the Force area to talk to young people about the realities of knife crime and the devastating consequences that it has on everyone involved.
This work is part of an ongoing programme of workshops and youth projects that the Force is rolling out to help combat knife crime and serious violence.
The workshops aim to give young people the knowledge and confidence to make the right choices, and to ensure that they know how to anonymously report knife crime through Fearless, the youth arm of Crimestoppers.
As well as the educational work with young people, a number of operational activities were undertaken throughout the week including knife sweeps in locations where information suggests that knives are stored, and visits to retailers to ensure that they are complying with the law around selling knives to under 18s. A number of temporary knife surrender bins were also located in Frome, Wells, Bath and Bristol, in addition to our permanent surrender bins at our custody centres in Keynsham, Patchway and Bridgwater, and at the Bridewell Police Station in central Bristol.
There has been a 45 per cent increase in the number of knife possession offences recorded in Avon and Somerset over the past two years, with 204 individual offences recorded between April and August this year. The high volume of arrests during the 2019 period is a result of the additional resources that have been made available as part of Operation Remedy.
Operation Remedy is a coordinated effort across the Force involving an increase of 100 police officers and a £2million investment from local taxpayers to crack down on the crimes that matter most to local people including knife crime, burglary and the illegal supply of drugs.
Chief Inspector Zoe Chegwyn who leads on knife crime for Avon and Somerset Police said:
“Knife crime continues to be an issue nationwide and within our Force area, and Operation Sceptre is just a snapshot of the work that we are carrying out every day.
However, we know that police enforcement alone can’t solve the problem. Education is a key part of our approach and will continue to play a central role in helping us to combat knife crime and serious violence of all kinds, and help keep young people on the right path.
We also encourage parents to talk to their children about knife crime – to make sure that they understand the impact of carrying a knife and also how to report if they have concerns about someone they know carrying a knife.”
The workshops that are delivered in schools are supported by a wider programme of youth diversionary work which targets those young people considered to be most at risk of being affected by knife crime. Most recently 12 young people from schools in Bristol and North Somerset took part in an Avon and Somerset Police led activity which gave them an immersive, first-hand insight into the impact of knife crime on individuals, the NHS and the wider community and how the police investigate this type of crime.
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “Knife crime has devastating effects on loved ones, families and the whole community. Although enforcement has a part to play in order to take knives off the street, we want to stop knives getting onto our streets in the first place.
“We need to all work together to educate young people that by carrying a knife, you are putting yourself in much greater danger and are more likely to become involved in a violent situation. We need a coordinated approach to deter young people from getting involved in knife crime and support them to take a different route.”
This week has also seen the first meeting of the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) which covers each of the five local authority areas within Avon and Somerset.
Working with relevant partners including education, health and police, the VRU teams will be tasked with identifying the drivers of serious violence in their area and will work collaboratively to develop coordinated responses to tackle them.