You would think that the UK, being the poster boy for oppressive knife laws, should have a correspondingly low rate of knife crime. After all, it is illegal to carry any locking knife or anything with a blade longer than 3 inches. Why then has knife crime in the UK shot up in the past year? Oh yeah, I forgot! Criminals will be criminals.
Check out these numbers…
From the Evening Standard,”Knife crime in Britain soars by 15% in one year, new figures show”:
The Office for National Statistics revealed that there were 13,613 offences of “assault with injury or intent to cause serious harm” in the year to the end of June this year, a rise of 1,788 from the previous year.
In London, there was a 20 per cent rise in attempted murder and grievous bodily harm offences with a knife. However, overall blade offences in the capital remained almost static, at 9,841.
In England and Wales, there was a nine per cent rise in the number of people caught carrying a knife and a 10 per cent increase in knifepoint rapes and sexual assaults. The growing use of blades led to an overall surge in knife crimes of four per cent with 26,535 offences across England and Wales.
Meanwhile there is a little bit of he-said-she-said going on between London’s top cop and Home Secretary Theresa May as to the reasons for the jump, with the police going on record against the case for more civil liberties.
Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe recently admitted that efforts to rein back the use of stop and search had gone too far and had contributed to the rise in knife offending. He said the policy would be reversed and more searches carried out. [source]
Meanwhile, Mrs. May is no hero to the police over her view that stop and search policies disproportionally affect minorities, a view we have seen borne out on our side of the pond in New York City, where 86% of those arrested under stop-and-frisk were black or Hispanic [source].
From this article on Telegraph, May had this to say:
“When stop and search is misapplied, and when people are stopped and searched for no good reason, it is unfair, it wastes valuable police time, and it damages the relationship between communities and the police.
“I know there are those who say that our reforms have gone too far, that the pendulum has swung too much the other way, and that reforms to stop and search are linked to knife crime in our capital and elsewhere.
“But to them I say this: stop and search reform has worked, it must continue, and – if you look at the evidence – it shows no link whatsoever with violent crime.
“We must not jettison all that good work for the sake of a knee-jerk reaction on the back of a false link.”
The Metropolitan Police Service responded thusly:
“There has been no knee-jerk reaction nor will there be. Our clear intention is to continue with the targeted use of stop and search, and the Home Office appears to have misunderstood our response to recent rises in knife crime and our future intentions. There has been no knee-jerk reaction nor will there be.
“The Commissioner has driven this change personally since 2012, encouraging officers to focus on intelligence-led, targeted stops. This approach has made an impact, seeing grounds to arrest in 20% of the people we stop, and a huge reduction in the amount of stops we do.
So that means 80% of the people were stopped for no good reason? Hardly sounds like a winning ratio to me.
Still, all of this bickering misses the point. Criminals will be criminals.
UPDATE 10/26/2015 2:59PM: The Met has indeed doubled down on their stop and search tactics despite the war of words with Theresa May. Some rather Orwellian stuff, from “Met launches knife crackdown, despite ‘stop and search controversy’“
Scotland Yard has launched a crackdown on knife crime, including stop and search activity, days after Britain’s largest force was plunged into a row with the Home Secretary over the tactic.
The Metropolitan Police are carrying out a week-long operation to remove blades from the streets of London. It includes “focused and intelligence-led stop and search” in known knife hotspots.
The initiative started by the force today follows a similar scheme in the summer, which saw more than 900 knives recovered and more than 270 arrests made.
Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Southworth, head of the Trident Gang Crime Command, said: “We are running a second tranche to coincide with half term, where we will again be looking to reduce the number of knives in circulation, taking them out of the hands of those individuals intent on using them.
“We have a number of operations planned throughout the Capital, including activity to target known offenders, focussed and intelligence-led stop and search and weapon sweeps in areas where intelligence suggests offenders are hiding knives in public areas to avoid being caught in possession of them.”
Local safer neighbourhood teams and specialist officers will conduct “high visibility” patrols on estates and locations where suspects are believed to be carrying knives.
The operation will also see a police presence deployed at transport hubs, with detectors known as “knife wands” used to catch those carrying blades and automatic number plate recognition will be used to identify knife criminals with access to cars.
Officers will also visit the homes of individuals previously arrested for possession of a knife.
A Met Police spokesman said: “They will be reminded that we know who they are and given a letter warning them that they could face a prison sentence if they carry a knife.”