THE latest lockdown hasn’t stopped police increasing their already considerable efforts to take knives off the streets in Warrington and Cheshire as part of a national campaign.
Operation Sceptre was devised to reduce the impact of knife crime in communities throughout England and Wales.
During the latest week of action, which started on Monday 9 November, officers and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in Cheshire did all that they could to pursue suspected knife crime offenders, take dangerous weapons off the streets and educate people about the dangers of carrying such weapons.
Adhering to the restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Cheshire officers and PCSOs:
*Arrested 10 people on suspicion of knife-related offences
*Seized 45 knives
*Conducted 18 knife sweeps
*Stopped and searched 79 people
*Handed out Knife Crime Warning Notices to 12 people believed to be habitual knife carriers
*Communicated with 28 schools – seven in-person and 21 virtually – regarding important knife crime messages for pupils
*Visited 55 retailers that sell knives to give product placement advice and ensure that age-restricted sales policies are being followed (it is illegal to sell a knife to anyone under the age of 18)
*Utilised pop-up police stations at three estates with knife crime concerns
*Held drop-in sessions at three community venues to enable people with knife crime concerns to speak in confidence with officers
*Conducted radio interviews and wrote social media posts to give important knife crime messages to members of the public.
A number of knife sweeps were carried out around Warrington parks while drugs and knives were also seized during a police raid in the town.
In addition, Bleeding Control Kits were handed out to a wide range of community venues across the county, including at supermarkets, shopping centres and education providers.
The kits contain equipment and instructions that enable members of the public to prevent knife crime victims from bleeding to death.
With lockdown restrictions preventing training from being conducted in person, the teams at Knifesavers and Prometheus Medical Ltd provided online training for the recipients of the packs.
Chief Inspector Sarah Heath, who is Cheshire Constabulary’s knife crime lead, said: “Operation Sceptre is a national initiative that we are always more than happy to support.
“The work that could be done during the latest national week of action was restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Government guidelines that we all have to follow.
“We had to cancel some of our plans for the week and adapt others – for example not allowing members of the public take part in the knife sweeps we conducted – but nothing was going to stop us from continuing to tackle knife crime offenders and protect the people of Cheshire.
“Police dogs and one of our drones were utilised in some of the activities we undertook as part of Operation Sceptre.
“We stopped and search anyone suspected of carrying a weapon and used all of the other powers at our disposal to combat weapon enabled crime.
“We also executed warrants related to knife crime and paid warning visits to people believed to be habitual knife carriers.
“Officers and PCSOs also delivered lifesaving Bleeding Control Kits to a range of community venues across Cheshire, visited a large number of retailers to ensure that robust controls are in place regarding the sale of kitchen knives and other blades, liaised with numerous schools about getting important knife crime messages to their pupils and addressed any knife crime concerns raised at pop-up police stations and confidential drop-in sessions.
“We take knife crime extremely seriously and are proud of the fact that Cheshire has a lower rate of knife crime than most other counties in England.
“When people carry knives it is only a matter of time before someone suffers life-changing injuries or is killed, and if you carry a knife then you are much more likely to be involved in a knife crime.
“At Cheshire Constabulary we have a structured prepare, protect, pursue and prevent approach to tackling knife crime that involves various partner agencies, including local authorities, education providers, health authorities, third sector organisations, youth representatives and community groups.
“We work together throughout the year to achieve long-term change by educating young people about the dangers and futility of carrying weapons.
“We make sure they know that carrying a knife, even if they have no intention of using it, is a crime and can increase the likelihood of suffering an injury and having a criminal record.
“We also steer them away from criminality and offer them attractive alternative ways to spend their time.
“Our goal is to achieve weapons-free streets throughout the county and we endeavour – through education, awareness and action – to make Cheshire an area where no-one carries a knife or feels that there is a reason to do so.
“However, the police cannot achieve this goal on our own. Knife crime is a societal problem that cannot be solved without the support of the whole society.
“If you have any information regarding knife crimes or those who carry weapons please let us know.
“If you know someone who carries a knife then reporting it to the police could be enough to save a life.”
David Keane, police and crime commissioner for Cheshire, added: “I am pleased to hear of this latest work as part of the constabulary’s considerable ongoing efforts to tackle knife crime.
“We’ve seen a number of tragic cases in Cheshire over recent years in which young people in our communities have, sadly, lost their lives to knife crime.
“The lives of too many families in Cheshire have been torn apart as a result of knife crime.
“It’s important to remember that carrying a knife doesn’t make you safer, it increases the risk of you being involved in a violent crime.
“I’m committed to working with Cheshire Constabulary and our communities to reduce the number of dangerous weapons on our streets, and to educate people about the dangers of knife crime.
“I urge anyone with information about those who carry such weapons to come forward in confidence and report it.”
To report any type of crime involving weapons call Cheshire Constabulary on 101, or 999 in an emergency.
Information can also be passed to the force online via https://www.cheshire.police.uk/ro/report.
Anyone who knows someone that carries a knife can report it to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/forms/give-information-anonymously.
Pictured: Sir Thomas Boteler Church of England High School Head Teacher Beverley Scott-Heron with a Bleeding Control Kit given to the school by Police Constable Ian Hampson, left, and PCSO Tony Spruce, right