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UK News

10 year record high in knife crimes reflect "culture of fear" says Christian charity

by Heather Preston

A Christian charity has attributed the highest number of knife crimes in a decade to a growing "culture of fear" in communities.

Ministry of Justice statistics show there were more than 22,000 knife and offensive weapon incidents in England and Wales in the year ending September 2019

This is a 3 per cent increase on the previous year.

The figures also show a fifth of the crimes - more than 4,500 - were committed by children aged between 10 and 17.

Christian Charity XLP works to create positive futures for young people in London.

Director of fundraising, Tim Sledge told Premier more children are carrying weapons for protection.

"I was surprised and shocked by [the figures]. But I think it's a reflection of what's happening at the moment, you only need to have one or two people carrying knives and then other people carry knives in self-defence.

"It just reflects the culture of fear that is around so many of our communities right now."

On Tuesday, the prime minister ordered all Whitehall departments to look at the "complex causes of crime" in an attempt to tackle the problem.

This came after data released by the Office for National Statistics in October revealed that police-recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument hit a record high in the year to June.

According to the MoJ report, the average length of prison sentences for knife and weapon offences also rose last year, from six to eight months.

Sledge says there needs to be a greater focus on the societal issues causing young people to carry knives.

"So much of this is down to young people having great anxiety about whether they have a future or not. We've got to begin to look at how we can help them stop carrying knives in the first place. We need to be going for early interventions."

Sledge says building positive and wholesome relationships with young people can go a long way to addressing the underlying causes of youth violence and bring value and hope to young people.

XLP is encouraging churches and Christian organisations to partner with schools, youth workers, the criminal justice system and local communities to affect change.

"When we unite our forces, I think then we will be a real force for good. Yes, government has a part to play. We intervene by coming together as communities, and that will make a transformative difference," Sledge said.

The Children's Society has said it is "extremely worried" by the number of children involved in knife crime offences and has called for more adequate funding to protect young people vulnerable to exploitation by criminal groups and county line drug rings.

"The Government must do far more to reverse years of huge cuts to early intervention and youth services, ensuring children who could be at risk get early help and supporting those who are already facing these very real dangers.  

"It's absolutely vital that this is addressed by the planned new Government cabinet committee aimed at combating knife crime and serious violence, alongside a serious commitment to apprehending the criminals who are cynically exploiting vulnerable children."

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