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Keeping weapons off the streets

We are taking part in two national operations this month to help keep knives and firearms off the streets.

This week (16-22 May) we are engaged in Operation Sceptre, an intensified focus on enforcement, education and engagement around knife crime.  The twice-yearly operation, which is led and co-ordinated by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) and involves police forces across the UK, builds on the prevention and enforcement work police carry out all year round to keep people safe from knife crime.

This year’s Op Sceptre runs alongside Op Aztec (18 – 29  May), during which firearms and ammunition can be surrendered for safe disposal.

Our police cadets and leaders have been working with police officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) ahead of the Op Sceptre week of action to check that stores are complying with their legal responsibilities around the sale of knives to under 18s.

In the largest test purchase operation of its kind in Avon and Somerset and in the country they tested the under-age purchasing of bladed articles at 120 retail sites across the region.  Of these, 29 retailers (24 per cent) failed.  This compares with a 26 per cent failure rate (21 retailers out of 82 shops) in the last Op Sceptre week in November 2021.

In the coming weeks, officers will engage with those who have failed for a first time, working in partnership to help them achieve compliance with the law and keep young people safe.

Two retailers –  who failed in previous testing and pledged during follow-up police visits to adopt a range of conditions going forward such as ensuring the full training of all their staff to ensure they are not selling knives or bladed articles to under-18s – will now face prosecution having failed for a second time.

AreaTestedPassFailFail rate
Bristol North & South Gloucestershire2314939%
Bristol Central3527823%
BANES & Bristol South1714317%
North Somerset2520520%
South Somerset2016420%
Avon and Somerset Total120912924%

In  other activities this week, Avon and Somerset Police will:

  • Deliver talks to young people in primary and secondary schools, youth clubs and groups and those outside of mainstream education, to explain the dangers and consequences of carrying a knife
  • Run a series of ‘Blunt Truth’ workshops, a collaboration with NHS partners, which explore the realities of knife crime and encourage young people to report their concerns if someone they know is carrying a knife
  • Host pop-up information stands to increase awareness and understanding in communities
  • Sweep open spaces where intelligence or reports from the public suggest weapons may be stored or hidden
  • Carry out hi-visibility patrols in areas of high demand, deterring those intent on crime or violence
  • Launch two new permanent knife surrender bins at Bath and Wellington police stations, bringing the total across Avon and Somerset to 14, including two temporary bins.

Our force tactical lead for knife crime Inspector Mike Vass said: “Far too often we are seeing lives senselessly lost or forever changed and families left devastated by knife crime. We take robust and ongoing enforcement action all year around to deter the carrying of knives, disrupt the activities of those intent on using weapons in criminal activity and bring perpetrators to justice.  It is our duty to keep the public safe and when retailers break the law and repeatedly jeopardise this, as some have done, we will take decisive action.

“We also recognise the vulnerability of many people caught up in carrying knives and help them to access support. Alongside enforcement work we are committed to early intervention and through partnership working with a multitude of agencies, we have teams working on building relationships with young people, educating them on how to stay safe and diverting them away from crime and anti-social behaviour which can escalate to serious violence.  We also listen to our communities, including young people, which helps shape our response to serious violence.

“Thanks to intelligence provided to us directly by the public and anonymously via Crimestoppers/Fearless, we are able to target our resources effectively so that they are focused on areas of demand and tackling local concerns.  We are also delivering more knife surrender bins to our communities so that people can voluntarily hand in weapons and free themselves of the risks and consequences of carrying them.”

Knife crime includes any crimes that involve the use of a sharpened weapon or blade. It is illegal to sell a knife to or buy a knife from anyone who is under 18 years old.  Self-protection is not a reasonable excuse for carrying a weapon and possession of a knife carries a prison sentence of up to 4 years (5 years in Scotland) even if it’s not used.

Reports and information can be given to us by calling 101 (always 999 in an emergency).  They can also be given anonymously by calling the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111 or visiting the website www.crimestoppers-uk.org where there may be a reward if information given leads to a positive result.  Non-judgemental information and advice about crime and criminality and a safe place to anonymously report is also available from Fearless, www.fearless.org, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

More information can be found on our website.