Published on 19th March 2020

Police and crime commissioner David Keane is supporting a national campaign to take knives off the streets and educate people about the dangers of carrying weapons.

Held from Monday 23 March to Sunday 29 March, Operation Sceptre aims to reduce the impact of knife crime in communities.

Cheshire has one of the lowest rates of knife crime in England but statistics show that the number of knife-related offences committed in the county increased by nearly six per cent from the year ending in December 2019 to the year ending in December 2018.

Cheshire Constabulary is determined to reduce the number of knives carried on Cheshire’s streets. It has a multi-faceted approach to tackling knife crime as it endeavours to achieve weapon-free streets throughout the county.

David Keane, police and crime commissioner for Cheshire, said: “The killings of Eddie O’Rourke in Runcorn and Christian Thornton in Widnes in recent years are just two examples of the dangers of carrying and using knives.

“Not only did those two men needlessly die and their killers receive lengthy prison sentences, but the killings have had devastating consequences for the families and friends of everyone involved.

“I am pleased that police in Cheshire are doing all they can to reduce the number of dangerous weapons on our streets and I urge anyone with information about those who carry such weapons to come forward in confidence and report it.”

Chief inspector Sarah Heath, who is the force’s knife crime lead, said: “Nationally knife crime is a growing problem and the week-long Operation Sceptre campaign is an initiative that Cheshire Constabulary is always more than happy to support.

“However, knife crime is an issue that the force tackles throughout the year.

“We take knife crime extremely seriously and are proud of the fact that Cheshire has a lower rate of knife crime than most other counties in England.

“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.

“Carrying a knife doesn’t make you safer and the consequences can be devastating for all those involved.

“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 educate young people about the dangers and futility of carrying weapons, steer them away from criminality and offer them attractive alternative ways to spend their time.”

The enforcement and prevention tactics that forces can choose to use during Operation Sceptre include:

• Stop and search
• Weapon sweeps
• Intelligence led action against habitual knife carriers
• Test purchase operations
• Raising awareness of knife retailers

The operation will also see intelligence shared between constabularies and Border Force about those who import knives into England and Wales from overseas.
However, the increasing difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic will inevitably restrict the work that can be done during Operational Sceptre next week.

Chief Inspector Heath added: “The current climate is presenting difficulties for everyone, but it will not stop us from continuing our work to tackle knife crime and to protect the people of Cheshire.

“We will continue to stop and search anyone suspected of carrying a weapon and to use all of the powers at our disposal to combat weapon enabled crime.

“Our goal is to achieve weapon-free streets throughout the county and we will continue to 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 then reporting it to the police could be enough to save a life.”

Retailers also have an important role to play. They are urged to have robust controls on the sale of blades, such as kitchen knives.

It is illegal to sell a knife to anyone under the age of 18 and anyone found carrying a knife in public, without a reasonable excuse, faces a prison sentence.

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 https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/forms/give-information-anonymously.