Jump to site navigation [j]

Press Release Search

Search for press releases

Tackling knives, saving lives - increased action to tackle knife crime

18 August 2008

Thousands have been arrested in the last two months as part of the new Tackling Knives Action Programme (TKAP).

More than 55,000 people have been stopped and searched, 2,500 arrests have been made for knife-related offences and more than 1,600 knives have been seized since the Government’s new Tackling Knives Action Programme (TKAP) was launched on 5 June, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced today.

The TKAP is based on the successful Tackling Gangs Action Programme, which resulted in a significant reduction in gun-related injuries across the four police force areas involved.

The forces participating in the Tackling Knives Action Programme have also stepped up activity engaging young people, and are committed to providing specific educational packages for schools, and events informing young people of the dangers of carrying knives. They are working closely with hospitals to share data on knife injuries and will be carrying out home visits, and sending letters to parents of young people where intelligence suggests they are carrying knives.

In the Metropolitan Police force area alone, as a result of increased police enforcement activity (and, more recently, an expectation of prosecution), the number of people charged with possession of a bladed article or knife since 1 April 2008 has increased 150% compared to the same period in 2007. Only 3% of people stopped and searched by Operation Blunt officers have been found to be carrying knives.

Home Secretary's statement

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

'The tragic deaths of Conor James Black in Manchester and Nilanthan Murddi in Croydon show why the work of the action programme is so important. If you carry a knife you are now more likely to get caught, more likely to be prosecuted and more likely to go to prison if found guilty.

'Knife crime is a complex issue which we all need to work together to solve.  Enforcement action is only one part of the solution. I am pleased that later today the England football team will be supporting our marketing campaign ‘It doesn’t have to happen’ urging young people not to carry knives.

'I want to reinforce our commitment to tackling knives and getting them off our streets. Working with the police, local authorities, the health service and partners like the FA, we'll do all we can to protect young people, their families and communities from the fear and grief of knife crime.'

In addition, police forces involved in the Tackling Knives Action Programme are working closely with local hospitals to ensure that they exchange vital information on knife injuries. Interim guidance issued by the General Medical Council on 5 August makes clear that the police should be told whenever a person arrives at hospital with a wound inflicted in a violent attack involving a knife. 

The Home Secretary also announced the provision of an extra 85 search arches and 566 search wands to the ten forces involved, in addition to the 350 wands and 100 arches already provided nationally.

Action so far

Action so far has included:

  • Merseyside Police deployed 300 officers on 1 August to licensed premises and transport hubs in Liverpool City Centre.  During the night, over 3,000 people went though the search arches - three people were arrested for possessing knives.
  • Greater Manchester Police held an intelligence led operation in Bolton on 18-19 July, focusing on licensed premises and the main train station. 2,700 went through the search arches, 20 arrests were made for public order offences, two arrests were made for knife possession, 84 buses were boarded, two licensed premises were closed and 50 people were stopped and searched.
  • West Midlands Police are holding a series of knife crime events for 1,200 young people to bring home to them the true impact of knife crime and encourage them to sign up to a peace pledge. When a young person is arrested for knife crime they are also sending letters to the parents of the peer group of that young person, telling them that a friend of their child has been arrested for a knife crime and asking them to look for warning signs and report any concerns.
  • The Metropolitan Police have assigned 100 police officers to Operation Blunt 2 and have made over 1,300 arrests for knife related offences since the beginning of June. Operation Razerback, which started on 11 August is targeting known gang members and weapons users ahead of Notting Hill Carnival.
  • West Yorkshire Police deployed search arches at bus and train stations in Dewsbury on 7 August. 272 people passed through the arches – no knives were found.  Search arches were deployed in Leeds City Centre during the nights of 9 and 10 August. Over 700 passed through the arches and no knives were found.
  • Essex Police are establishing 14 youth crime forums – one in every district. Their first task will be to run a series of '2 smart 4 knives' events at youth clubs and leisure centres, aimed at getting young people involved in the solutions knife crime. They will also be using Home Office funding to train all of their schools’ police officers and PCSOs to roll out knife education workshops to every secondary school in the county.

ACPO statement

Alf Hitchcock, Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) lead on knife crime and Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, said:

'Knife crime causes massive grief and pain to both victims’ families and their communities, and that is why we have a duty both to the public, and to the victims of these awful crimes, to take a tough approach to those who carry knives.

'ACPO is pleased with the work forces have been undertaking to tackle knife crime - not only in the ten areas involved in the programme - but in other forces too. We need to ensure that we are tapping into all the good practice taking place across the service.'

Later today, the Home Secretary and Alf Hitchcock will join players from the England football team at a press conference in Watford, where they will urge young people not to carry knives as part of the government’s ‘It doesn’t have to happen’ campaign, warning young people about the harsh consequences of knife crime.

High-profile campaign

The £3 million national radio, website and mobile phone advertising campaign, launched on 28 May, was developed by young people for young people who worked on the concept and recorded the radio adverts.  The web element of the campaign, www.bebo.com/itdoesn’thavetohappen (new window) hosted on the social networking sites Bebo (new window) and YouTube (new window), have so far received over 560,000 views.

Notes to Editors

  • In the last year alone, a range of tough penalties have been rolled out to get across the message that carrying a knife is unacceptable, including doubling the maximum sentence for carrying a knife from two to four years, giving teachers the power to search pupils for weapons in schools and increasing the use of stop and search.
  • ACPO guidance issued on 22 July makes clear that anyone over the age of 16 caught in possession of a knife can now expect to be prosecuted on the first offence. Those under 16 can expect a formal final warning coupled with a knife education scheme to help them understand the potentially devastating consequences of carrying knives.
  • Revised guidance issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council on 1 August states that the starting point for sentencing a level 1 (for the least serious offences) first time adult offender caught in possession for a knife who pleads not guilty should be 12 weeks in custody. More information can be found at on the Sentencing Guidelines website (new window).
  • Most recent figures show that people prosecuted for carrying a knife are now almost three times as likely to go to prison as some ten years ago (6% in 1996, 17% in 2006), and the average sentence has increased by almost a third over the same period. Where the court decides not to send someone to prison, a programme of tough and intensive community sentences is being developed. 
  • In June 2008, the Home Secretary outlined plans to focus a programme of action on knife crime hotspots and announced an initial investment of £2 million.
  • The ten areas taking part in the Tackling Knives Action Programme are: London, Essex, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Merseyside, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, South Wales and Thames Valley.
  • On 13 July 2008 the Home Secretary announced that the ACPO lead on knife crime, DAC Alf Hitchcock (Metropolitan Police Service) would head up the new Tackling Knives Action Programme.
  • The programme, which will run until March 2009, is delivering tough enforcement combined with education, prevention work and information campaigns designed to keep youngsters on the right track.
  • The recent policing green paper From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing Our Communities Together (new window) sets out the Government’s plans to cut bureaucracy and red tape to free more officers for frontline priorities like tackling knife crime. Pilots in four areas (Surrey, Staffordshire, the West Midlands and Leicestershire) are significantly reducing the amount of paperwork required when recording minor crimes.

back to top

(Links will open in a new window)

We are not responsible for the content of external websites.

Home Office websites