IF there are two things I want people to understand, it’s that not everyone is carrying a knife – not even close – and that you should never think that carrying one is good for protection.”
Those are the words of Detective Chief Inspector Ian Hughes, of our serious violence unit, as a week-long intensification of the work to combat knife crime is launched across the county today, Monday 15 May.
Although the work to tackle knife crime is carried out by officers 24-hours a day, seven-days-a-week, Op Sceptre Week will see a number of specific operations being carried out across the county, including the use of knife arches and more sophisticated ‘Open Gate’ devices, both of which detect weapons.
The force now has use of a number of Open Gate systems, which are easily transportable and can be quickly deployed anywhere in the county.
Hand-held Garrett weapons detectors are also available to officers who cover high density retail areas in Essex which will improve the stop and search process by making them safer for officers and the public.
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Hughes of the Prepare, Prevent and Protect Team, which is part of our Serious Violence Unit, said: “We know knife crime destroys lives; it affects families who have lost loved ones forever and one family losing a loved one is clearly one too many.
“But if there are two things I want people to understand, it’s that not everyone is carrying a knife – not even close – and that you should never think that carrying one is good for protection.
“We put significant effort into tackling knife crime including ‘hotspot’ policing, intelligence gathering, using knife arches and when we carry out those operations, we do find people who are carrying weapons, but they are the exceptions; the overwhelming majority of people do not have weapons with them.
“The number of people carrying weapons is small – and we are finding them and we’re dealing with them.”
And knife-enabled crime is going down across the county.
In the 12 months to March 2020, the best pre-pandemic period with which to compare, there were 1,881 knife crime offences. The 12 months to March 2022, there were 1,634 offences and in the 12 months to March this year, there were 1,622.
As a result of our proactive approach, we are also detecting more knife offences, with possession of weapons offences increasing from 1,351 in the year to April 2022 to 1,786 this April.
DCI Hughes added: “The reason those offences are going up is because we’re finding more offences through our proactive work. It’s important to note than in each of the 1,786 incidents over the last 12 month, that’s at least one weapon being seized and taken out of the hands of people who could potentially use it to cause harm.
“We wouldn’t know about these offences if we hadn’t proactively located them.
“We also work really closely with enforcement partners at our ports and in the last 12 months, a further 133 weapons have been seized; they never made it to those who had ordered them.”
DCI Hughes added: “We know that knife crime and violence is not an issue the police can tackle alone, and we work shoulder to shoulder with partners to address it.
“In Essex, we are incredibly lucky to have so many partners, such as the Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit, which believes the same as we do – that the response to knife crime requires a whole system approach by working with education, health, local authorities, and probation services.
“A key focus is to help divert people who are involved in, or at risk of being involved in, knife and violent crime away from this lifestyle and into areas as sports, education, volunteering, rehabilitation.
“This is a battle that we as a community must fight together. That includes educating our children about the reality of being involved in gangs and the reality that carrying a knife will not protect them. In fact, it is more likely that doing so will lead to them being hurt or them hurting someone else.”
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex and Chair of the Violence and Vulnerability Partnership, said: “Operation Sceptre is about tackling knife crime on our streets, seizing weapons and disrupting criminal activity. It is also, crucially, about education and awareness. It is about helping young people understand the dangers of carrying a knife and helping parents to spot the signs their child may be at risk.
“Every knife we seize could mean a life saved, every child we speak to spreads the message that it’s safer not to carry a knife. We know our children and communities in Essex are concerned about knife crime and the more education and enforcement that we can do the more we will reduce knife crime and the devastation it has on young people and families.”
Across Essex, there are 16 knife bins across the county which are funded by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC), the Violence and Vulnerability Unit (VVU) and Essex Police. They are listed below.
The bins allow for anyone who wants to dispose of bladed weapons to do so safely and without fear of prosecution. The priority is for as many knives as possible to be taken off the streets of Essex.
Essex knife bins
- Basildon Police Station, Great Oaks SS14 1EJ
- Braintree Police Station, Blyth’s Meadow CM7 3DJ
- Brentwood Town Hall, Ingrave Road CM15 8AY
- Canvey Island Police Station, Long Road, SS8 0JD
- Chelmsford Police Station, New Street CM1 1NF
- Clacton Police Station, Beatrice Road CO15 1ET
- Colchester Police Station, Southway CO3 3BU
- Grays Police Station, Brook Road, RM17 5BX
- Great Dunmow: opposite Great Dunmow Library, White Street CM6 1AB
- Harlow Police Station, The High, CM20 1HG
- Harwich Park Pavilion, Barrack Lane CO12 3NS
- Loughton Police Station, High Road IG10 4BE
- Maldon: Promenade Park coach park, Park Drive, Maldon CM9 5JG
- Pitsea: opposite Chalvedon Social Club, Chalvedon Square SS13 3QX
- Rayleigh Police Station, High Street SS6 7QB
- Southend Police Station, Victoria Avenue SS2 6ES