How we're tackling the scourge of knife crime in Dorset
From November 13, a week-long national campaign focusing on action against knife crime will take place. Known as Operation Sceptre, the week will see officers and police staff carry out a range of different activities and events across Dorset as part of our mission to crack down on knife-enabled crime and violence.
Ahead of this, I want to reassure you of all the work which has been happening to tackle knife crime offences, day in and day out across Dorset. Over the summer, you will know we intensified our efforts in the fight against knife crime, with a particular focus on Bournemouth town centre. That work continues to this day.
Knife crime has a profound impact on families and communities, and I am determined that we must work together to prevent future tragedies in this county. While Dorset has the second lowest rate of knife crime across England and Wales*, I want to be clear that we are not complacent. This is demonstrated in the most recent ONS statistics from June 2022 to June 2023, which showed a 7% drop in the number of incidents of crimes termed as ‘violence with injury’. This shows the work we’re putting into preventing violent crime in our communities is beginning to have a positive impact. ‘Violence with injury’ includes offences such as homicide, knife crime, and gun crime and areas of criminality where serious violence or its threat is inherent. I am determined to continue doing all I can to support the force in bringing down the numbers of these offences and in turn create a climate in Dorset which refuses to tolerate knife crime.
Since the summer, I have put £20,000 in place to fund knife wands for every car and a portable knife arch. These vital pieces of equipment will ensure we can act quickly against the threat of knives on our streets and will equip Dorset Police officers with the tools they need. As well as the knife wands, the force also has a portable knife arch coming, which people may have seen in use by British Transport Police at the train station this summer. I am clear, Dorset will not be a place where it is easy to carry a knife.
One new measure which I have welcomed wholeheartedly is the launch of the Bournemouth Town Team. This is a partnership arrangement set-up in a bid to ensure closer working arrangements between Dorset Police, the Bournemouth Business Improvement District (BID), town rangers, CSAS officers, parks team, seafront team and Local Authority ASB officers. This type of joint working arrangement is crucial if we are to truly combat violent offences in the town centre. Luke Gilbert, who has returned to Bournemouth as CSAS Senior Officer said: “The logistical benefit of joining forces to deliver the Town Team has seen a direct increase in officers from all agencies in and around the town centre being able to be more proactive and reactive to ongoing issues. For example, one of the issues we have seen a direct fall in already is the presence of anti-social street drinking in the town centre.” By creating a climate which doesn’t tolerate ASB and other types of disorder, as partners we’re sending a strong message to offenders, that we will not tolerate crime in any form.
I am also pleased that the Dorset Police-led Operation Fireglow and Operation Nightjar which target ASB and serious crime in Bournemouth, led to 28 arrests, 47 Section 35 dispersal orders and 21 stop and searches over the summer. I know staff working in the town centre have said they saw a reduction in the level of thefts and ASB thanks to the increased police presence, with Operation Nightjar having a positive impact with businesses. However, Dorset Police cannot tackle these offences alone, which is why the joint working of the Town Team with partners such as the Bournemouth BID is crucial if we are to truly drive down crime in the town centre.
While I am sure these measures are making a difference, each alone will not prevent young people carrying knives as weapons. That is why I am continuing my campaign for a Violence Reduction Unit in Dorset. This unit would bring together essential partners to reduce local violent crime and address the underlying causes. As we’ve seen in other parts of the country, the model is so important as VRUs understand the local needs of the area and identify where and how interventions would be most effective. Over the past two years, I’ve been calling on the local authorities to support setting up a VRU, and recently I’ve met with the Bournemouth MPs - Conor Burns and Tobias Ellwood - as well as the leader of BCP Council, Vikki Slade, to discuss the need for this scheme. I consider it a necessity for our county. We need to get ahead of the problem of young people carrying knives. That’s why I am so passionate about getting a VRU into Dorset to make certain that hand in hand with all the other initiatives mentioned in this newsletter, we drive towards making Dorset the safest county.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner
*This is based on police recorded crime data involving the use of knives and sharp instruments, for the year ending December 2022.