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Forces urged to share data on machete finds for new laws

DAC Graham McNulty also highlights the work on knife crime by Trading Standards which he says is largely unsung

Forces have been urged to collect detailed data on weapon use and share it at national level to tackle the use of long bladed weapons such as machetes.

The national lead on violent crime told Police Oracle that further legislation may be needed to get ahead of changes by offenders using weapons.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for knife crime, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty, said wide-bladed weapons are the next issue for forces to consider due to the tougher sentences now in place for carrying knives.

“I do know we need a broader discussion on machetes and things we see in serious violence cases. But we need data on which knives are being used in which offences,” he said.

He said legislation on knives, including the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 which increased the penalties for possession and use, is “strong” but offending patterns change.

“That’s a good Act; it’s moved us in the right direction,” he said. “I know officers appreciate having the ability that if they find a knife in a search they can take it away. I also think what was good was putting responsibility on retail, manufacturers, online sellers and people delivering the goods,” he told Police Oracle.

“Do we need more? We probably need to have that debate. But we also need the data from forces to make the case.”

His comments came with an update on Operation Sceptre, the national police campaign to tackle knife crime, took place from Monday 16 May to Sunday 22 May.

All 43 police forces in England and Wales, including the British Transport Police, took part in the seven-day crack down on knife crime which saw 1,947 people arrested, of which 831 were related to knife crime offences.

Officers seized 1,074 knives, an increase of over 14% since the last Operation Sceptre week in November 2021, and 8,401 were either surrendered or seized during sweeps.

The operation included six weeks of planning to coordinate resources from trading standards teams, local authorities, the CPS, Border Force, Home Office and – for the first time – the Prison Service.

There were 800 individual operations and 2,000 school engagements.

And he added more partner working, particularly with Trading Standards is vital to reducing violent crime. Getting other organisations to task activity related to knife crime is challenging – particularly as funding is tight.

He said: “I know the big commitment that trading standards make. They do a lot of work that links to organised crime. I’m a big fan. And for them, the knife crime work is not mandatory.

"There are some trading standards teams who go out of their way to go and do work around knife sales – and I know there are limited resources. It’s if they have spare capacity.”

Building on the work of violence reduction units which pull in other agencies is key.

He said: “It’s about team work. It’s about other organisations that come and help out. It needs to be a whole system approach.”

Wider work to keep young people away from crime will need more work with local authority social services, charities and academy school chains.

Out of school initiatives that stop young people being pulled into the cycle offending which starts from the age of 11. Old-style youth clubs run by local authorities may not be the answer.

DAC McNulty said: “It’s making sure we get the right people to the right activity.”

He added: “I don’t want to criminalise a 14-year-old because they carry around a weapon. I want them to understand the risks and consequences. Conversely, if you’re somebody who repeatedly carries a knife to do harm, we need to come and get you.”

Another issue senior officers will be asked to think about is how their forces can quantify and explain the impact of operations which results in offences not happening.

DAC McNulty told Police Oracle: “It’s one of the difficulties that we face. The first premise of policing is us trying to prevent crime. It’s good to intervene when it happens and we want to target our investigations. That’s good. But you can’t say ‘I stopped that 14-year-old from being murdered in the first place.”

He explained: “I cannot say what this would have been if these knifes had been used. But try and convince me that none of them would have been used.”

The Policing minister said the government will continue to prioritise violent crime.

Kit Malthouse said: “We have to work day and night to keep our kids safe. There is nothing more terrifying for a parent that the thought of them not making it home. 

“Operations like this are helping us make our streets safer each day. Every knife taken off our streets is a potential life saved, and since 2019 alone, we’ve removed 50,000 of them.” 

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