Police are stepping up the fight against knife crime across Staffordshire and Cheshire.
Officers across the two counties will be focusing on catching those using and carrying knives and educating young people to tackle the growing number of incidents.
Staffordshire is like nearly all forces in the UK, with a repeated rise in knife crime year-on-year. In the last 12 months there was a 15.7% increase, with a 30% increase the year before.
During the week there will be high visibility patrols in areas where knife crime is more common, increased stop checks and stop searches where powers allow, and schools and youth groups will be visited by officers to talk about the dangers of knife crime and how you can respond to a knife injury.
In response to local intelligence, there will also be an increased number of knife sweeps. Knife sweeps see officers, local officials from partner organisations and members of the community help to search areas for concealed weapons.
The sweeps can sometimes unearth just one weapon, but it prevents that weapon being available for criminal activity and provides reassurance to the local community that we are cracking down on those that choose to use and carry weapons.
Superintendent Ricky Fields, head of operational services at Staffordshire Police, said: "We tackle the issue of knives every week of the year, but we are hopeful that this week we can help to stop the increasing trend of knife crime in Staffordshire and further afield.
"There will be lots of positive action from us and partners across the county to demonstrate how dangerous knives are and the consequences of carrying them, using them or just being in a group of people that use them.
Cheshire is ranked nine out of 42 (excluding the city of London and British Transport Police) for knife crime in all forces across the country but there is evidence that some areas of the county have a higher number of knife crime incidents than others. Those are the areas officers will be targeting and include Runcorn, Ellesmere Port, Macclesfield and Widnes.
Using intelligence, the focus will be on people who think its ok to carry a knife in public, and action will be taken if anyone is found with one in their possession without a valid reason for carrying it.
During the initiative, police officers want to educate people about the laws surrounding buying and carrying knives and will be working with partners such as Trading Standards and Crimestoppers to combat the issue.
There will also be a number of surrender bins available for people to hand in knives up to February 19th at four police stations - Macclesfield, Ellesmere Port, Widnes and Runcorn - and two recycling centres - on Congleton Road, Gawsworth, and on Garth Road, Ellesmere Port.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, David Keane, said: “Carrying a knife is a crime which brings that added risk that a minor issue can escalate into something much more serious and potentially life changing.
“The damage caused by knives, not just to the victim and their families, but also to the wider community, can be devastating. No one deserves to live in fear of knife crime in their area and we will be using intelligence to target certain areas.
“Consequently, we are keen to reach out to members of the public who may have information about knife carriers, and I would encourage anyone with information to have the confidence to come forward and report it.”
Officers will be using their powers to stop and search individuals who are believed to be carrying knives.
Family and friends also have an important role to play. If they know someone who is determined to carry a knife then reporting it could be enough to save a life.
Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Sacha Hatchett said: “The law is quite simple, it is illegal to have a knife in your possession in a public place without a reason and if you break that law you could face a prison sentence.
“We will be supporting our colleagues nationally as part of Operation Sceptre and officers will be using their stop and search powers where appropriate. We will have increased visibility in the areas with the highest number of recorded incidents. Officers will also be working to stop the sale of knives to under 18’s at part of this initiative. This is a warning that we take all crimes involving knives – or any weapon – in Cheshire extremely seriously.”
Retailers are being asked to put in robust controls on the sale of blades, such as kitchen knives, as part of the operation.
ACC Hatchett added: “Whilst Cheshire has not experienced any recent knife related murders, people have been seriously injured. We need to act now and work with residents, partner agencies, the business community and schools to reduce the number of knives on streets. We also need to work with young people themselves to spread the message that carrying a knife can ruin their life rather than save it.”
People are being urged to contact 101 or Crimestoppers, an independent charity that encourages anyone with information to contact them anonymously on 0800 555 111.