Knife crime in schools: Figures for Northumberland revealed

Pupils aged 12 or under have been caught in possession of knives at schools in both Northumberland and North Tyneside.

The revelation forms part of a national investigation showing that such seizures have more than tripled across the United Kingdom in the last five years.

While the increase in the Northumbria Police area was just over double, the actual numbers involved were far lower than those tackled by larger forces.

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Northumbria Police insist, however, that they are not complacent about the figures and are working hard to reduce the totals further.

The information was released after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Northumbria Police by our parent company Johnston Press’s investigations unit.

It shows that one child aged 10-12 was found to be in possession of a knife in Northumberland schools during 2016-17.

Two pupils in the same age bracket were caught with blades at North Tyneside schools during the same period.

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Two teenagers aged 13-15 in both Northumberland and North Tyneside were also stopped with knives on school premises during 2016-17.

Another youth aged 15-17 was found in possession of a knife at a Northumberland school during the same 12-month period.

The overall figures – four for both Northumberland and North Tyneside – compared to just one recorded incident in North Tyneside during 2012-13.

Across the force area, the number has increased from seven incidents to 16 in the five full years since 2012.

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Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Ged Noble, of Northumbria Police, said: “The number of reports we receive about young people involved in knife crime in schools is thankfully very low in Northumbria. This is reflective of our proactive approach to tackling such issues and educating young people about the potential devastating consequences that carrying a knife could have, not only for any victims and their families but also to their own lives.

“Our neighbourhood teams work with schools to engage with pupils, and thousands of young people visit SafetyWorks, a dedicated interactive centre supported by Northumbria Police, where groups learn about a range of safety issues, including those linked with knife crime.

“Despite all of this excellent work being carried out, we are far from complacent. We will build on this activity as we continue to try to reduce the number of incidents involving young people and knives.

“I would like to assure the public that Northumbria Police takes all cases of knife crime extremely seriously and we are working hard to protect all communities. We would ask anyone who sees someone carrying a knife in unusual circumstances to contact 101 or in an emergency dial 999.”

Figures indicate overall rise in knife crime in schools

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Our new statistics on knife crime within school grounds suggest that the North East is thankfully failing to share in the overall nationwide rise.

Figures compiled by the Johnston Press Investigations Unit show that the number of offences reported to police forces has tripled from 331 to 1,081 between 2012-13 and 2016-17.

Over the same period, the number of people aged 18 and under reported to be in possession of a knife on school premises has increased nearly fivefold from 169 to 835.

Injuries caused by knives have also more than doubled from 72 during 2012-13 to 176 in 2016-17.

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The true figures may indeed be higher as just under a third of the United Kingdom’s 44 police forces have still to respond or refused our Freedom of Information (FOI) request for data.

Patrick Green, trust manager at the anti-knife crime charity The Ben Kinsella Trust, founded a decade ago after 16-year-old Ben was stabbed to death by three youths in Islington, London, said: “These figures are frightening and what is of greater concern is they don’t show the full extent of the problem.

“Until we really know the full picture of knife crime in schools, it is difficult to properly tackle the underlying issues.

“This investigation shows knife crime is a real and growing concern among young people across the country. I am glad I don’t go to school any more.”

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Pupils have faced arrest for offences including grievous bodily harm, malicious wounding, racially aggravated assault, robbery and threats to kill.

Recent cases identified by the investigation include a four-year-old with a knife or blade in Northamptonshire, a pupil aged five or six threatening a teacher with a pair of scissors in London, and a school staff 
member in Wales suffering post traumatic stress after being threatened with a 
knife. Weapons found since 2012 include prison-style improvised ‘shanks’ made by embedding razor blades 
into felt-tip and highlighter pens.

Seized items also include carving knives, jagged-edged hunting knives, machetes, axes, scalpels, smoke grenades, stun guns and air rifles. The Metropolitan Police said every London borough now has a bespoke knife crime action plan and 76 schools have taken up an offer of a knife wand to search pupils.

Leading law officer Robert Buckland, the Government’s Solicitor General, said: “These are frightening statistics. The message still has to get through to young people that carrying a knife for your own protection is probably the most dangerous thing you can do.”

One caveat to the FOI figures is that not every force distinguishes whether an incident on school grounds involves a pupil or an outsider aged 18 and under.