A TOTAL of 26 knives were taken off the streets of the Avon and Somerset Police area during a week-long clampdown.

The force took part in the nationwide Operation Sceptre with the aim of reducing the number of people carrying knives.

The initiative, co-ordinated and led by the National Police Chief’s Council brings police forces across the country together in a period of intensification to concentrate efforts on enforcement, education and engagement.

From April 26 through to 2 May, officers across Avon and Somerset carried out a range of activities including:

  • Educational visits to schools and colleges to talk to young people about the dangers and consequences of carrying a knife;
  • Visits to retailers to educate them on their responsibilities and the law around selling knives to under 18s;
  • Knife sweeps in locations where intelligence suggested weapons may be stored or hidden;
  • High visibility and plain clothes patrols of hot spot areas for anti-social behaviour, drug dealing and use and other crime which can lead to violence;
  • Knife arches deployed to a number of our region’s train stations and shopping centres;
  • Warrants executed for outstanding suspects in relation to violent offences;
  • Knife surrender bins installed in extra locations in addition to the permanent locations across Avon and Somerset;
  • Partnership work with Border Force to monitor and intercept knives and other offensive weapons bought online and being brought into our area;
  • Work with partners in the region’s Violence Reduction Units to engage with young people on issues which can lead to them becoming involved in knife crime.

The week’s operation resulted in:

  • 26 knives taken off the streets, 22 of which were surrendered to police bins;
  • 82 weapon sweeps being carried out;
  • 35 lessons delivered across schools;
  • nine neighbourhood police surgeries and engagement events at youth clubs and other community settings;
  • five arrests;
  • five warrants being executed;
  • 36 shops visited.

Avon and Somerset Police’s force lead for serious violence Superintendent James Raphael said: “Reducing violence in our communities is a key priority and we work hard every day of the year to realise this aim. However, taking part in Operation Sceptre twice a year allows us to target our efforts to tackle knife crime through education, enforcement and engagement, and achieve real results which make all of us safer.

“Although knife possession offences in Avon and Somerset reduced by 21 per cent in 2020 compared with 2019, some of this reduction can be attributed to the fact that lockdown meant there were fewer people out and about on the streets.

"Despite the pandemic, proactive enforcement continued and significant intervention and diversion work was carried out, with agencies adapting to online working and engagement through other means. Last year’s decrease in knife possession offences is a step in the right direction and we want to build on these reductions moving forward.

"Reducing knife crime and serious violence will never be achieved through police enforcement alone, which is why the work of our VRUs, which bring together partners from agencies including police, education, local authorities, health and the charity sectors, is essential to deliver long term change.”

Last year, Avon and Somerset Police launched ‘Knife crime: A new way forward’, a campaign to engage young people in efforts to reduce knife crime.

The programme is just one of a series of initiatives undertaken to engage with young people and saw pupils aged 13 – 15 from four schools based in Weston-super-Mare, Bristol and Taunton, create short, original animations about the issues they see as driving knife crime.

One of the pupils involved in the animation project also created a documentary, which explored the themes arising from the project’s workshops in more depth.

For more information about Knife crime: A new way forward, Avon and Somerset Police’s approach to tackling knife crime and serious violence, as well as locations of knife surrender bins and details of support services visit www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/knifecrime