PCC response to Home Secretary announcement on new powers to tackle knife crime (31 Jan 2019)

Responding to the Home Secretary's announcement on new police powers to tackle knife crime, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson OBE said:

"Both nationally and locally we are seeing increases in serious violence, often gang-related, with too many children and young people becoming victims as well as offenders.

"We know all too well the detrimental impact this has on individuals and communities with the exploitation of young people, in many cases by organised criminal groups.

"I acknowledge and welcome the amendments to the Offensive Weapons Bill announced by the Home Secretary, today (31 Jan).

"Any measures that can help prevent the carrying of knives as a weapon, including tougher law enforcement against unscrupulous retailers who are knowingly in effect arming our children with a dangerous weapon, has to be highlighted and deterred wherever possible.

"I also support the new Knife Crime Prevention Orders, where those found carrying knives can be made subject to conditions limiting their ability to commit knife crime, which we know can have devastating consequences.

"However, legislation alone will not stop the rising tide of serious violence and we must focus our efforts on prevention and early intervention, addressing the reasons why children and young people are carrying and using knifes in our communities.

"Here in West Yorkshire for instance, my office has recently been successful in helping to coordinate a number of successful bids totalling over a million pounds (£1,121,395) in funding initiatives from the national Early Intervention Youth Fund (EIYF).

"Working closely with West Yorkshire Police and the district Community Safety Partnerships, the money will enable us to deliver a programme of early intervention projects, with the sole aim of preventing serious violence in the county, such as knife crime.

"This includes identifying and targeting young people who are vulnerable to exploitation or on its fringes. Similarly, it targets those linked to organised crime, street gangs and anti-social behaviour.

"Some of the money we have received from EIYF is being put towards the employment of 'Key-workers', helping support those children and young people who are identified as the most likely to be exploited or involved in violent crime.

"What is very clear, is that we need a whole-system approach, ensuring we have adequate youth services and awareness raising programmes in schools and elsewhere to help stem the alarming rate children are being permanently excluded or 'off-rolled' from mainstream education.

"These children then become more vulnerable to being exploited and recruited by drug gangs and exposed by others to the criminal practice of carrying and using knives, which in turn then only leads to more serious crimes and potentially devastating outcomes which directly affect the poor life chances for those involved."

© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2019