More than 20 stores in Bristol sold a knife to minors during a secret police operation.
Of the 82 stores tested, 21 of them agreed to sell a volunteer police a blade. Store owners have now been issued with a warning.
This is happening while police forces nationwide are participating in Operation Scepter – a week of intense activity to educate young people about knife crime and remove objects with leaves from the streets.
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Although not connected, this operation follows several stab wounds in Bristol recently, where four were stabbed over the Halloween weekend outside a nightclub in Clifton, and 18-year-old Dontae Davis died after being stabbed in eastern Bristol.
What are Avon and Somerset Police doing to reduce knife crime this week?
Operation Scepter is coordinated and led by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC). It brings together police forces across the country to intensify enforcement, training and engagement efforts.
Avon and Somerset Police carry out a range of activities, including testing that stores do not sell items with magazines to minors, conducting searches for weapons, delivering lessons and setting up knife handover boxes.
The activity started on Saturday, November 13, with police volunteering to enter stores ranging from large supermarket chains to smaller army / outdoor stores to test their compliance with the law, which makes it illegal to sell knives and other magazines to people under 18 years of age.
Of the 82 stores tested by the force, 21 of them failed and sold a knife to a minor volunteer or failed to ask for ID.
These stores will be visited by local police officers to issue a warning along with an advisory package describing the law and how they can comply with it.
Other activities this week include the delivery of “Blunt Truth” workshops in Bristol schools and community groups, a collaboration between the police and the NHS that aims to encourage young people to report if they know of anyone who wears a knife. The workshop will also include first aid training provided by NHS doctors and paramedics to help save a life if they witness a stabbing.
The officers will also conduct searches in areas for knives where intelligence services suggest they may be hidden or concealed, and they will work with the border force to intercept knives and other offensive weapons entering the area.
Today, officers in Hartcliffe found knives and objects with leaves from a wooded area after a search.
Where can I drop my knife in Bristol?
Avon and Somerset Police have installed extra knife surrender buckets in the city in addition to the permanent locations across the force area.
Since the handover buckets were first installed in 2016, over 3,000 knives and blade articles have been handed over to the police.
The permanent locations of knife delivery containers are:
- Patchway Police Center
- Staple Hill Police Station
- Kingswood Police Station
- Bridewell Police Station
- Keynsham Police Center
- Weston-super-Mare town center gateway (shared with location with North Soms Council)
- Bridgewater Police Center
- Radstock police station
- Bristol Magistrates Court
- Bristol Crown Court
During the week of Operation Specter (November 13 to November 21), knives can also be delivered at the following locations:
- Frome police station
- Frome Library
- Wells Police Station
- Trinity Road Police Station
- Redbridge House
- Broadbury Road Police Station
Another six permanent bins have been funded and will be installed after discussion with local authorities and communities.
What has the force said about the operation this week?
Avon and Somerset Police’s chief of staff for knife crime, Inspector James Turner, said: “Reducing violence in our communities is a key priority and we work hard every day throughout the year to achieve this goal. But participating in Operation Scepter twice a year provides us the opportunity to target our efforts to tackle knife crime through education, enforcement and engagement and achieve real results that make us all safer.
“So far this year, knife possession crimes have been stable compared to the same period last year, and in 2020 we saw a 21% reduction compared to 2019, which was probably helped by the pandemic and closures. It is reassuring that the number of knife possessions has not increased in years when restrictions have been eased but we are not complacent and we know there is real concern in our communities after the recent tragic events involving young people.
“Our approach to tackling violence among young people is a partnership based on early intervention and diversion. Through Violence Reduction Units (VRUs), we have dedicated school line officers and PCSOs who build relationships with young people from an early age, and educate them in how they can stay safe.
“We have developed innovative schemes such as the Blunt Truth education package and The Call In scheme, which aim to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to avoid the criminal justice system if they are arrested for first-time drug crimes. The scheme recognizes the vulnerability of young people, who are often nurtured and exploited by criminal gangs, and allow them to avoid prosecution by engaging in mentoring schemes, distractions, and opportunity-creating sessions.
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“These schemes are just two examples of how Avon and Somerset Police see the bigger picture. We know we can not enforce our way out of knife crime, and we hear our local community’s concerns loud and clear, which is why we are strengthening our multi-agency and diversionary pathways, which seek to address the causes as well as the devastating symptoms of juvenile violence. “
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford said: “Working together to intervene and prevent serious violence, including knife crime, before it escalates is a priority for both my office and Avon and Somerset Police. This weekend attended I in the knife-buying operation with officers and police volunteers, and saw on my own the hard work that took place to keep young people safe.
“The violence reduction units across Avon and Somerset see the force and other statutory agencies working together to support young adults who are vulnerable to being cared for and exploited by gangs. Such work must continue and we must ensure that we “Working with the whole community to address the causes of serious violence. It is important that we give young people a way away from knife crime, and when necessary, the police must use robust enforcement to deter criminal activity.”
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