Knife crime in Hertfordshire increases more than fourfold in seven years
Anti-knife crime charity warns surging knife crime rates are no longer confined to major cities across England and Wales
Hertfordshire has seen knife crime increase more than fourfold in just seven years, figures reveal.
Anti-knife crime charity the Ben Kinsella Trust warns surging knife crime rates are no longer confined to major cities across England and Wales, and that "every village, town and city" should be aware of the scale of the crisis.
Hertfordshire Constabulary recorded 734 offences involving a knife or a sharp weapon in 2019-20, Office for National Statistics data shows.
That was more than four times as many as the 180 reported in 2012-13, when comparable records were first published.
There were roughly 62 knife or sharp weapon offences per 100,000 people in Hertfordshire last year – a record high, and well up from 16 per 100,000 seven years earlier.
A Hertfordshire Constabulary spokesperson said: “We recognise that crimes involving knives and firearms have been increasing across the country for some time and we have seen increases in these types of crimes in Hertfordshire.
"Whilst this increase has been partly due to changes and improvements in the way we record crime, it is clear that society is changing and we have been adapting the way we deal with type of crime.
“Hertfordshire has been developing its Serious Violence Strategy in partnership in local government, schools, charities and other agencies to look at different solutions, some of which have been successful in other parts of the country.
"There has been a lot of work and research into understanding the issues that are driving, predominantly young people, into making these decisions and to form a proactive problem solving approach that tackles these issues.
“We have been running a number of initiatives in schools around the county working with charities like St Giles Trust and the Ollie Foundation, who have been visiting schools and giving talks to students.
"We have also set up a dedicated Gangs and Schools team to develop engagement projects to encourage young people to make positive choices.
"The team have been running our #LivesnotKnives campaign, which is a countywide initiative aimed at working with local sports clubs including Watford and Stevenage FC to encourage young people to engage in sports and other positive activities.
“We are also taking part in the regular national knife and firearms amnesties and carrying out enforcement activities, including deploying knife arches and detection wands, carrying out weapon sweeps in public areas and test purchasing operations at knife retailers.
“Through the Serious Violence Strategy we have been focussing on preventing these things happening at a much earlier stage, by ensuring that our young people are given the information, guidance and support they need to prevent them from being sucked into these kinds of crimes.”
Knife crime has risen across England and Wales in recent years, the ONS said, with a record 50,000 offences recorded by police in the year leading up to the coronavirus crisis.
Of those, 22,012 (44%) were for assault with injury or assault with intent to cause serious harm, and 21,961 (44%) were used in a robbery.
The ONS said despite improved crime recording methods, increases are likely to reflect a real rise in the number of knife and sharp weapon offences nationally.
Patrick Green, chief executive of the Ben Kinsella Trust, said the latest figures are "frightening".
"Tragically, knife crime has become embedded into our society, affecting generation after generation," he added.
"We are no longer simply dealing with a sudden jump in knife crime, this problem has been growing and getting worse every year.
"The Government needs to change its approach. We are beyond the point where we can arrest our way out of this problem, we must do more to tackle the root causes of knife crime.
"This means a greater focus on prevention and early intervention to stop knives being carried in the first place."
Separate ONS figures show knife crime soared by 25% between July and September last year as lockdown restrictions were lifted.
Mr Green said the charity is already seeing an increase in the crime ahead of the planned easing of restrictions in the coming weeks.
The latest data also reveals the number of gun crimes recorded by police forces in England and Wales.
Hertfordshire Constabulary recorded 79 offences involving a gun in 2019-20, 22 more than the 57 recorded a year earlier.
The figures include offences where a firearm has been fired, used as a blunt instrument or as a threat, but exclude any involving air weapons.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Too many young lives are being needlessly lost. We are working closely with the police and others to stop this senseless bloodshed, particularly as Covid restrictions are eased over coming months.
"We are making sure the police have the resources and support they need, including bolstering their ranks with 20,000 new officers.
"At the same time, the Government is investing millions into Violence Reduction Units to tackle the root causes of violent crime, while our £200 million Youth Endowment Fund supports vital projects that steer young people away from a life of crime."