The easing of Covid-19 restrictions enabled officers in Cheshire to step up their already considerable efforts to take knives off the streets as part of a national campaign.
Operation Sceptre was devised to reduce the impact of knife crime in communities throughout England and Wales.
During the latest week of action, which started on Monday 26 April, officers and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in Cheshire did all that they could to identify and pursue suspected knife crime offenders, take dangerous weapons off the streets and educate people about the dangers of carrying such weapons.
The importance of this work cannot be underestimated following the death of popular young man Keagan Crimes on Sunday 11 October 2020. The tragic incident involving a knife sent shock waves around the Winsford community.
Adhering to the regulations in place as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, during the week of action Cheshire officers and PCSOs:
- Arrested 42 people
- Seized 48 knives, and collected another 226 weapons via 15 surrender bins situated across Cheshire
- Conducted 56 weapons sweeps
- Stopped and searched 156 people
- Executed nine warrants in relation to knife crime
- Communicated with 175 schools regarding important knife crime messages for pupils, many of which were visited in person to talk to young people about the potentially fatal consequences of carrying weapons
- Went to 14 homes to hand out Knife Crime Warning Notices to people believed to be habitual knife carriers
- Visited 46 retailers that sell knives to give product placement advice and ensure that age-restricted sales policies are being followed (it is illegal to sell a knife to anyone under the age of 18)
- Utilised pop-up police stations at seven knife crime hotspot areas to enable people with any concerns to speak in confidence with officers
- Conducted television and radio interviews and wrote social media posts to give important knife crime messages to members of the public.
In addition, Bleeding Control Kits were given to a wide range of community venues across the county, including at police stations, shops and shopping centres, theatres, pubs, recreation centres, sports clubs, cafes, parks, railway stations and community centres.
The kits contain equipment and instructions that enable members of the public to prevent knife crime victims from bleeding to death.
There are now more than 200 of these life-saving kits located at community venues in Cheshire.
Chief Inspector Sarah Heath, who is Cheshire Constabulary’s knife crime lead, said: “Nationally, knife crime is a growing problem, and the week-long Operation Sceptre campaign is an initiative that the force is always more than happy to support.
“We were severely restricted in terms of the work we could do during last year’s two weeks of action for Operation Sceptre, with them having fallen when the country was in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With us now out of lockdown and certain restrictions having eased, there were more engagement and enforcement options available to us during the latest week of action.
“We grasped these with both hands.”
Keagan’s death has left concerns of knife crime being a particularly serious issue in Winsford.
Chief Inspector Gary Smith, of Northwich Local Policing Unit that includes the Winsford area, said: “His sad and senseless death was avoidable, and the incident shocked and deeply upset the local community.
“We owe it to him, his family and the community of Winsford to do everything we can to create a safer environment now and for future generations.
“We do not want any more tragic and needless deaths in the town or anywhere else in Cheshire.”
Four knife sweeps and five education events regarding knife crime were held in the Northwich and Winsford areas during the week of action.
A Stanley knife, a claw hammer and two metal bars were found during one of the sweeps.
Knife crime presentations were delivered to schools in crime hotspot areas.
Officers also patrolled hotspot areas during the week, engaging with members of the public and searching them when there was cause to do so, and a total of 10 Bleeding Control Kits began to be distributed to schools and colleges in Northwich and Winsford.
Chief Inspector Heath added: “Knife crime is an issue that the force tackles throughout the year, not just during weeks of action.
“We have a multi-faceted approach to tackling knife crime and take the issue extremely seriously, with officers working day and night to protect communities.
“We are proud of the fact that Cheshire has a lower rate of knife crime than most other counties in England, with the number of knife-related offences committed in the county having decreased by 24 per cent from the end of March 2020 to the end of March 2021.
“When people carry knives, it is only a matter of time before someone suffers life-changing injuries or is killed, and if you carry a knife then you are much more likely to be involved in a knife crime.
“As all the statistics show, carrying a knife doesn’t make you safer.
“At Cheshire Constabulary we have a structured prepare, protect, pursue and prevent approach to tackling knife crime that involves various partner agencies, including local authorities, education providers, health authorities, third sector organisations, youth representatives and community groups.
“We work together to achieve long-term change by educating young people about the dangers and futility of carrying weapons.
“We make sure they know that carrying a knife, even if they have no intention of using it, is a crime and can increase the likelihood of suffering an injury and having a criminal record – anyone found carrying a knife in public, without a reasonable excuse, faces a prison sentence.
“We also steer them away from criminality and offer them attractive alternative ways to spend their time.
“Our goal is to achieve weapons-free streets throughout the county and we endeavour – through education, awareness and action – to make Cheshire an area where no-one carries a knife, or feels that there is a reason to do so.
“However, the police cannot achieve this goal on our own. Knife crime is a societal problem that cannot be solved without the support of the whole society.
“If you have any information regarding knife crimes, or those who carry weapons, please let us know.
“If you know someone who carries a knife, reporting it to the police could be enough to save a life.”
Retailers also have an important role to play, by helping to ensure that weapons are not falling into the wrong hands. They are urged to have robust controls on the sale of blades, such as kitchen knives.
To report any type of crime involving weapons, call Cheshire Constabulary on 101, or 999 in an emergency.
Information can also be passed to the force online via https://www.cheshire.police.uk/ro/report.
Anyone who knows someone that carries a knife can report it to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via: