Knife possession in Staffordshire has reached highs of twice the national rate, according to police figures.
The county has seen an 84 per cent increase in knife crime over the last eight years, with the number of recorded incidents increasing from 367 in 2010/11 to 677 in 2017/18.
Cheshire has had a 40 per cent increase over the same period.
According to Staffordshire force’s own figures, the number of knife crimes recorded increased by 4.7 per cent from 2017/18 to 2018/19 - from 677 to 709.
Stoke-on-Trent accounts for 42 per cent of all stop searches related to knives – making it the county’s epicentre for knife activity.
Possession of a blade has increased by 20 per cent nationally and is at its highest levels since 2008-2009. In Staffordshire, this crime type has increased by 44 per cent – over twice the national rate.
Noting the figures, Commissioner Matthew Ellis quizzed the chief constable on the force’s tactics for fighting knife crime at a recent public police performance meeting.
He said: “At what point do you think we would see that start to change? And is it inexplicably cyclical or is it societal issues that you think are the drivers to this?”
Chief Constable Gareth Morgan said: “Crikey. Nearly a quarter of our knife crime related matters are domestic. Domestic violence in a house environment, people have access to knives. So that’s a very new challenge in relation to domestic violence and there’s lots of work to be done on that.
“There will always be a hardcore of issues where knives are concerned in crime. But I think the question is more concerned on street crime. I think you will see this from forces nationally that are in receipt of funds from Government, there is a clear acknowledgement that you need to suppress the crime at the time. You need visible policing, you need the powers of stop and search. But also, arrests and following up on crimes as they occur to get control of the problem.”
Chief Constable Morgan explained that in Manchester and Birmingham, this tactic is working in fighting murder and more serious crime, and has been employed in the county’s knife crime hotspot, Stoke-on-Trent. But that this was only a short term solution.
He added: “The answer to whether that is cyclical is much more of an issue, Matthew, that I would argue is more to do with politics and police resources. My colleagues in the forces that are suffering disproportionately, where they’ve now got them, they’re showing a reduction in the day-to-day crimes and using things like stop and search.”
Chief Constable Gareth Morgan
The number of under 18 year olds who have been stopped and searched in relation to knives has also increased in the last 12 months. With 37 per cent of all stop and searches for knife crime conducted on individuals between the ages of 10 and 17, an increase of four per cent between April 1, 2017 and March, 2018.
There were 5,035 stop and searches recorded in the latest 12 month period with the majority relating to drugs. Stoke-on-Trent North has completed the majority of stop and searches, with almost a quarter of all stop and searches recorded there.
With specific reference to all stop searches that were linked to knife crime, 505 were conducted in the period April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019. This is an increase of 48 per cent compared to the previous year.
The majority of police forces in England and Wales, including Staffordshire, recorded a rise in these offences – there was a 6 per cent increase both nationally and locally.
Staffordshire has recently been allocated £392,700 from Government to tackle knife crime. It will be used for a range of measures targeting young people at school and at home.
Glyn Pattinson, secretary of Staffordshire Police Federation, commented on the increased crime and welcomed the funding.
He said: “There are two sides to this. I think the increase in knife crime can be linked to the fact that we have fewer police officers. But it’s not just the police who have had to deal with funding cuts, it’s affected other organisations as well.
“If Staffordshire is getting this funding to improve education around knife crime, so we can prevent young people getting involved in it, that has to be a good thing.”