Stop any escalation of knife crime
In response to national and local concerns over the recent increase in knife-related crime, and 2016 survey information regarding young people’s fear of knife crime in Dorset, the Police and Crime Commissioner is keen to explore proactive preventative initiatives to stop any escalation locally.
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner had been liaising with Dorset Police and other partners to better understand the knife crime picture locally and to inform appropriate responses. Whilst incidences of recorded knife crime locally have been increasing it is important to recognise that they still remain relatively low and only a small percentage of incidents relate to an actual knife being used to cause injury.
Where injury has occurred, half of these cases relate to self-harm and a quarter to incidents within a private space eg domestic abuse related. However, it is likely that knife crimes relating to County Lines are more prevalent than are being reported, primarily due to a reluctance in victims coming forward given the criminal nature of the activity that they are involved in.
Drug use and/or mental health issues also tend to be a common theme among both knife crime victims and suspects.
Research shows that the 13-17 year old, 18-25 year old and taxi driver groups are over-represented as victims of knife crime - albeit they are still in low volumes overall.
Similarly, the 13-17 and 18-25 age groups are over-represented within the suspect cohort – in terms of possession, use of knives to threaten, and use to cause injury. The greater risk of harm relates to the 18-25 group due to the prevalence of drugs activity.
There are also a handful of ‘hotspot’ locations within the County which show a higher proportion of knife crime.
Supported by funding from the Commissioner, the Safe Schools & Communities Team (SSCT) has long delivered education and interventions to a range of school-age children and young people, including their Gaining Respect in People road shows for year seven students that cover diversity, weapons, preventing gang culture and Anti-Social Behaviour. More recently, in line with the local Problem Profile, SSCT intends to take a targeted approach to knife crime education, focusing on areas of high reported levels of knife crime/weapons incidents and social deprivation.
The PCC also provides funding and support to Safewise, the interactive and practical ‘skills for life’ facility available in Bournemouth and Weymouth. Crime prevention and citizenship are two elements of the wider work undertaken by Safewise and the Commissioner is currently exploring with them the option to deliver some additional bespoke knife crime inputs to local young people.
With the extensive work that has been undertaken to understand the situation locally, and associated discussions with partners and key stakeholders, it has become clear that the focus of future work should be on the broader issue of serious violence, rather than just being limited to knife crime per se. This also links in with other key PCC commitments, such as vulnerability and youth diversion – and particularly in tackling the threat, risk and harm posed by County Lines drug-related activity.
The need to commission more specific work to address this will therefore be taken forward into the next PCC term of office.