Knife crime triples in Lancashire as violent offences spiral

Tracey Highton
Tracey Highton
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Knife crime in Lancashire has increased by more than a third in the past four years, new figures reveal.

The statistics show a worrying upward spiral of increasingly violent offences - with hundreds of instances every year.

Police say tackling knife crime is a key priority but victims and their family insisted a cultural shift is needed to reduce the trend.

Few people know the true heartache behind the reality of knife crime more than Tracey Highton.

Four years ago her 18-year-old son, Jon-Jo, died from a deep neck wound after being attacked with weapons including a samurai sword, an axe and knives, on St Stephen’s Road, Deepdale, in August 2015.

The tearful mum spoke to the Post to highlight the devastating and ongoing impact knife crime has had for her family after the figures were revealed.

She said: “I hoped people would learn from Jon-Jo’s death but they haven’t. Maybe telling my story will drive it home to people who carry knives.

“It’s so sad because every time I turn on the TV it’s happening again to someone else and it just brings it all back - it’s just horrible.”

“ It’s happening because they are not doing anything - sometimes people are not even going to prison for knife offences. There is no deterrent.

“I read the other day a 14 year old stabbed someone in Blackpool - the world’s gone mad.

“And it isn’t just limited to gangs.

“The impact of what happened affects me every day, until I die I’m never going to be right.

“ But we have to look at why people are carrying them, why don’t they feel safe. They don’t realise the danger.

“We need tougher laws to make them think twice about carrying knives. toughening up the penalties would make them think twice.

“And we need to look at where they are getting them from - the people who supply things like machetes - either on the internet or in shops - to our children should be held to account as well.

She begins to cry as she adds: “ When they kill that person, they don’t just kill that person, they kill everyone one else around them.

“These kids are not fighting with their fists anymore, it’s scary.

“What will it be like in another year?

“I think a lack of discipline is a massive issue - teachers aren’t allowed to properly discipline children - the do-gooder attitude has gone too far.”

She added: “Part of me is dead - I’ll never be the same person.

“There’s not a day I don’t think of my son and how he died - did he know what they were doing, did he see it?”

Lancashire Police investigated 867 offences involving a knife or a sharp weapon between April 2017 and March 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics.

That is a 34 per cent increase since 2013-14, when there were 645 cases, and a six per cent rise over the last year.

There are 58 knife offences per 100,000 people in Lancashire, lower than the national average of 69 per 100,000.

In 2017-18, Lancashire Constabulary recorded 109 cases where a firearm was used - five fewer than the previous year.

Rachel Hanley, chair of Lancashire Police Federation, said: “The rise in knife crime is a very worrying and serious issue, and needs to be tackled head on by the Government.

“We cannot allow crime to keep rising, especially in areas such as this. Lancashire has lost over 800 police officers since 2010 and there is no doubt that our proactive a capability has been seriously reduced. Policing needs serious investment and it needs it quickly, for the benefit and safety of our communities.”

Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw added: “I fully support Lancashire Constabulary in tackling knife crime as a key priority and know the work officers do around the clock, alongside partners, acting on intelligence to help tackle crime and reoffending across the county.

“Knives are deadly weapons and time and again we see the tragic impact on people’s lives as a consequence of them being used.

“I’m committed to making our neighbourhoods safer and regularly support campaigns such as the knife surrenders which remove dangerous knives from our streets.”

The majority of knife crime in Lancashire was for many years blamed on drug wars and gang conflict - but it no longer appears to be the sole connection.

The county’s courtrooms are dealing with a plethora of knife incidents from neighbours stabbing neighbours, to workers attacked while going about their daily, law abiding jobs.

Two weeks ago Preston Crown Court was told how offender Louis Rooney, 20, who has a previous knife conviction, hurled a lit firework into a DHL driver’s vehicle - then brandished a metal spike at him.

Victim Greg Szymanski, 38, was delivering pallets of stock to Nisa on Village Green Lane, Ingol, Preston, when Rooney and a boy in a school uniform approached his van, causing him to fear they would steal from the vehicle.

The court was obliged to impose a minimum six-month jail term under statutory guidelines, due to a previous knife related conviction.

The knife crime epidemic is also infiltrating the county’s schools and public transport network.

County Council figures for the last two years reveal there were 18 permanent exclusions and 58 fixed period exclusions due to weapons in schools - with at least 11 involving knives.

Last month St Mary’s Catholic High School, in Leyland, was put on lock down following reports that two individuals were approaching the site armed with knives.

And the British Transport Police is echoing the trend with its own figures showing knife crime on Britain’s railways has more than tripled in the past three years.

New plans were recently announced to tackle the country’s knife-crime epidemic including increased action against traders who sell knives to children such as more money to help Trading Standards prosecute retailers who repeatedly sell blades to underage children. At present underage knife sales purchases are carried out by police in Lancashire.

Its most recent success was Saeed Sarmi, 46, of East View, Deepdale, Preston, who was fined £215 after selling a blade to a teenage police cadet who was acting undercover to help police.

The Government also wants to introduce Knife Crime Prevention Orders - similar to an ASBO - that can be given to people aged 12 or over who police believe is carrying a knife, are habitual knife carriers or are previously convicted of a knife-related offence - with the aim of stopping vulnerable young people from becoming involved in knife possession and knife crime.

But the Association of YOT Managers says in reality it believes the civil orders “is likely to fast track children into custody” and pointed out children carrying knives and other weapons regularly report that they do so because they are fearful of their own safety.

It said balancing this against this the possible consequence of breaching an order is unlikely to deter them from ‘defending’ themselves.

Instead it called for more educational programmes.

Stuart Maddock, who lives in Preston city centre and works for new anti bullying charity Safety Guide Foundation, agrees education is the way forward.

He says: “We can’t stop everyone of every age having access to knives, a child can grab one from a kitchen drawer - but we can educate them about the dangers.

“Children have different reasons for carrying knives and not all are planning to use them. One boy we worked with was carrying a knife for protection - his dad had been stabbed to death the previous year.”

The 39-year-old admits as a youngster he was bullied and close to becoming involved with a gang, but managed to turn his life around.

The organisation has published a million educational leaflets for schools across the UK and have been into schools to do talks, including Corpus Christi in Frenchwood. The charity has been supported by former professional boxer Robin Reid, who previously held the WBC super-middleweight title and competed in the Olympics in 1992.

The NSPCC has a gangs helpline which is free, anonymous and available 24/7. If you’re worried about you or a friends involvement in a gang, call 0808 800 5000 or visit their website