REVEALED: Figures show knife crime is on the rise in Leeds

There were 644 knife crimes recorded in Leeds during the first eight months of 2016/17 - only 10 fewer than the whole of the previous year.
There were 644 knife crimes recorded in Leeds during the first eight months of 2016/17 - only 10 fewer than the whole of the previous year.

Knife crime has become synonymous with street gangs in urban areas, teenagers carrying weapons for protection and too many young lives lost.

But this is by no means the full picture when it comes to the 654 knife crime offences recorded in Leeds during 2015/16.

Any knife crime is one too many.

Chief Inspector Alisa Newman

It could include everything from a child taking a Swiss Army knife to school and domestic incidents involving a knife to armed robberies at shops and assaults with broken bottles in bars.

Although many will happen without becoming public knowledge, barely a day goes by without a knife-related incident of some kind in the city.

And this is unlikely to change if the latest figures are anything to go by, with police data suggesting the number recorded in 2016/17 will be much higher.

A Freedom of Information request revealed there had been 644 incidents in the first eight months of the year – only 10 shy of the total for all of 2015/16.

If it continued at that rate, then the total for the latest year could top 960 offences.

Chief Inspector Alisa Newman, who heads up partnership policing in Leeds, said: “This isn’t purely possession of knives. This is any weapon which is capable of breaking the skin if used. It could be a syringe, a broken bottle.

“And it’s not only where it’s used. It could be shown.”

For those alarmed by the numbers, she was quick to point out that the total number remains relatively small for a city the size of Leeds.

“It’s not a surging issue,” she said. “It’s probably something that is reflected nationally as well in terms of the picture of knife crime, but any knife crime is one too many.”

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The 2011 census found Leeds has a population of 751,500, meaning there was roughly one knife crime offence recorded per 1,149 people in 2015/16.

And other cities are seeing rises, with the Metropolitan Police reporting last week that knife crime was up 24 per cent.

One of the biggest challenges for police in reducing these figures is the ready availability of knives, an item everyone has in their kitchen drawer.

And while some criminals might carry a knife with the intention to cause fear or harm, there are people who do so for reassurance and in the belief that they would never use it.

Chief Insp Newman said: “We’re not necessarily talking about a weapon purchased for the sole intent of causing injury, but possessing one creates an opportunity to use it.

“In any situation where someone carries a knife, the circumstances can change and result in someone using it.”

It is for this reason that a lot of police work to reduce knife crime is focused on prevention and education, with the simple message that knives cost lives.

“We don’t just do this alone,” Chief Insp Newman said. “We work with third sector charities, schools – a whole range of people – especially around youth work.

“We can’t do it on our own. We really do rely on the assistance we get from our partners.”

While schools and young people are undoubtedly an area of focus, education also extends to retailers asking for ID when selling knives.

Chief Insp Newman said: “It’s vital for shopkeepers and sellers of knives to be responsible. The availability through the internet is a challenge for us though. They can probably be purchased online with less scrutiny.”

And where that happens, others in the community can help police by passing on information about someone they know who might be carrying a knife for whatever reason.

“Community intelligence is absolutely vital to us for every aspect of policing,” Chief Insp Newman said.

“Where we’ve got information, we’ll act on it.”

Police are appealing for witnesses.

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