Tackling knife crime in communities
I was invited onto the BBC’s Politics Wales show on Sunday to talk about knife crime in light of the tragic murder of Ryan O’Conner.
This is an appalling case and my thoughts are with Ryan’s family and friends at this difficult time. Those responsible have been found guilty and are awaiting sentence.
I would like to reassure people that cases like this are incredibly rare.
Gwent has one of the lowest levels of knife crime in the UK. In Wales overall, knife crime is comparatively lower than the levels seen in hotspot areas such as London and we have seen a downwards trend in recent years.
Less than one per cent of young people actually carry a knife. In fact, most knife crime that is reported to the police takes place within a domestic setting, not on the streets.
But that doesn’t mean we are complacent.
Policing has a number of tools available to it to tackle the issue of knives. Officers conduct intelligence lead stop-searches to deter those who may believe that carrying a knife is a sensible option. The use of stop and search is closely scrutinised, both routinely by the police and an independent scrutiny panel facilitated by my office.
Operation Sceptre is a regular initiative where intensified action on knife crime takes place throughout the year. This includes targeted stop and searches, weapon sweeps, test purchases of knives from retailers, and the use of surrender bins.
But the real key to tackling this issue is education and early intervention. It is far better to stop young people from ever picking up a knife in the first place than to deal with the consequences afterwards. Not only can it result in physical harm, but could ruin their future education and employment opportunities.
My office funds a number of initiatives designed to target children in schools and youth settings to educate them about the dangers of knives, and breakdown barriers to reporting issues in the community. We work closely with partners across Wales to ensure that everything we do is underpinned by evidence and best practice.
This is not something any one agency can tackle on its own but, by working together, we can make our communities safer.
If you have information that someone is carrying a knife you can report it to Gwent Police on 101, via the Gwent Police website, or via Facebook and Twitter.
You can also make an anonymous report to CrimeStoppers 0800 555 111 or via the CrimeStoppers website.
In an emergency always call 999.