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Avon and Somerset Police take part in Operation Sceptre, national knife crime initiative

Images from our knife crime animation project
Images from our knife crime animation project

Avon and Somerset Police has taken part in Operation Sceptre, a national initiative to tackle knife crime led by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC).

The operation took place last week with the aim of reducing the number of people carrying knives through targeted operational activity and by engaging with young people on the consequences of knife crime.

In Avon and Somerset activity included:

  • Knife sweeps in locations where information suggested that knives were stored
  • Visits to 70 retailers to ensure that they are complying with the law around selling knives to under 18s.
  • Partnership work with Border Force to monitor and intercept knives and other offensive weapons bought online and being brought into our area, including attempts to import illegal items. Officers visited a number of addresses where Border Force had intercepted the sale of a weapon to explain why the purchase had been blocked and to ensure that those involved understood that that the purchase of these items are prohibited
  • 25 knives were seized as a result of intelligence led arrests throughout the week.
  • And officers also engaged with a number of schools across Avon and Somerset, as part of our ongoing education programme for young people, as well as carrying out direct engagement with young people at risk of becoming involved in serious violence.

Avon and Somerset Police lead for serious violence, Superintendent James Raphael said: “Operation Sceptre is an important event in our operational calendar and a great opportunity for us to take a robust enforcement approach, which sends a strong message to those who carry knives or sell them illegally, that we will not tolerate weapons on our streets.

“Our work to tackle knife crime and serious violence goes on all year round. Local police teams are working hard every day in their communities, acting on intelligence to arrest violent criminals and take weapons off the streets.”

In a recent example of local police action to tackle the harm caused by drugs and weapons in our communities, officers from Broadbury Road Police station in south Bristol carried out a warrant on Ilminster Avenue in Knowle last month, having received intelligence that the property was being used to store weapons. As well as suspected class A drugs found at the address, officers also discovered a large collection of guns and knives including machetes, zombie knives, flick knives and knuckle dusters. Two men aged 42, and 25, and a 33-year-old woman, all from Knowle in Bristol were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class A drugs. They have been released under investigation whilst enquiries into the suspected drugs and the weapons seized continue.

In Bath, officers have been carrying out an ongoing operation specifically targeting young people at risk of becoming involved in serious violence, engaging with them, and disrupting incidences of anti-social behaviour and criminal activity.

Superintendent Raphael continued: “Last year, Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) were established in Avon and Somerset as part of a national multi-agency approach to tackling serious violence, based on early intervention. This means that we are working collaboratively with partners in local authorities, education and youth services to ensure that young people most at risk of criminal exploitation are protected and supported.

“Our work with the VRUs has enabled us to establish a network of neighbourhood officers who are building relationships with young people in schools and helping to educate them about the dangers and consequences of knife crime, as well as divert them away from criminal or dangerous behaviour.

“We will never police our way out of knife crime, but there is always a place for strong enforcement action to complement our diversionary and intervention work.”

In Avon and Somerset there was a 31 per cent increase in the number of knife possession offences from 2018 to 2019. This rise can in part be attributed to the fact that last year we created a dedicated team of police officers who focus solely on tackling knife crime, drugs and burglary under Operation Remedy, who have been out arresting more people and taking more knives off the streets.

When looking at 2020’s figures, knife possession offences actually decreased by 18 per cent in the period from January to October, when compared with the same time frame in 2019. Whilst the impact of the pandemic must be seen as a contributing factor, significant work has continued with intervention and diversion as well as proactive enforcement work. Covid has meant that all agencies have had to adapt and often this has meant engaging with offenders and those with vulnerabilities online and by other means.

This month’s Operation Sceptre follows the launch of a new campaign by Avon and Somerset Police to engage young people in knife crime. The campaign, called Knife crime: A new way forward, has seen pupils from four schools based in Weston, Bristol and Taunton create short, original animations about the issues they see driving knife crime.

The animations can be viewed here:

The campaign demonstrates Avon and Somerset Police’s commitment to the prevention of knife crime as well as enforcing the law. It is just one of a series initiatives undertaken locally, and across Avon and Somerset to engage with young people, with the aim of diverting them away from criminal behaviour and educating them on the consequences of the choices they make.