In March 2007, following a wave of fatal stabbings of teenage boys and young men in London and Manchester, the government announced that knife crime would be officially recorded in England and Wales in a way it had never been done before. The BBC reports.
Until around 2014, knife crime, as with overall violence, appeared to be on the decline – that’s certainly what figures from the police, Ministry of Justice and health service suggested.
Worryingly, the involvement of young people in knife crime seems to be growing, confirming anecdotal evidence that more boys (and girls) are carrying weapons, being drawn into gangs and exploited by drug dealers.
Ten-to-17-year-olds represent roughly 20% of those cautioned or convicted of knife offences – that’s possession of a knife or threatening someone with one.
The Office for National Statistics is responsible for the Crime Survey of England and Wales, which estimates crime trends from a sample of 34,000 people aged between 16 and 64. In a more recent development, the survey has begun interviewing about 3,000 10-15-year-olds to pick up crime trends among children.
The results indicate that the majority of violent incidents involving children aged 10-15 occur around schools, in daylight – and 81% lead to injury. Around 8% resulted in serious injury.
Over the decades the law has been extended and penalties toughened. In 1988 it was made a specific offence to possess a knife in school.
Staff do not need consent to search a pupil for a knife, but guidance recommends that there are two teachers present and that children are not asked to remove clothes, except items such as coats. Further measures are currently being considered by Parliament, including widening the knife ban to further education colleges.
A Freedom of Information request last year, to which 32 police forces responded, showed a 20% increase on the previous year in knives found in schools.
The Department for Education has compiled information about those who have been caught. It showed that 10-18-year-olds convicted of knife-possession offences were generally lower achievers – 91.1% of them achieved one or more GCSEs, compared with 99.7% for the population as a whole – and they were also more likely than their peers to have been excluded from school.
Does your school use a knife detector? Would you feel safer if it did? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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