Could metal detectors at schools stop kids bringing in knives?
- Credit: Archant
Knife crime campaigners in Ipswich want metal detectors and security guards rolled out at all schools in Suffolk to crack down on violence and “save more lives”.
The call from Ipswich Against Gangs comes as police figures reveal children as young as eight have been caught with knives in Suffolk schools over the last few years.
Mum-of-four Roxanne Chudleigh, who launched a campaign against gang violence after Tavis Spencer-Aitkens was stabbed to death last year, said lots of concerned parents have been in touch about pupils having weapons and knife incidents at schools.
"Everybody knows what a knife is," she said.
"Everyone's got one in their kitchen drawer. We feel it's not about education anymore, it's about prevention.
"We've had lots of messages from worried parents about kids taking knives into schools. I appreciate police are trying their best but it just doesn't seem to be working.
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"Just a few weeks ago there was a threat of a fight between two schools.
"We should be following the example of US schools who have metal detectors, airport style scanners and security guards to prevent kids from carrying them. It might just save a few more lives."
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Police recorded 23 crimes in 2018 where children under 16 either threatened someone with a knife or took a weapon with a blade into school. Five years ago just three similar crimes were logged and numbers have crept up in recent years - with 15 in 2016 and 20 in 2017.
However Superintendent Kerry Cutler, of Suffolk Constabulary, said 23 crimes in 2018 amount to less than 1% of the county's school population. Police have stepped up work with schools to educate children about knife crime, gangs and county lines over the last year, she added.
School staff 'able to search pupils and their possessions'
Teachers can now take action if they suspect a pupil has brought in a weapon, thanks to new powers given to them by the government.
"These powers include searching pupils or their possessions - or requiring them to undergo screening by a walk-through or hand-held metal detector - if they suspect they have a weapon," a spokesman for the Department for Education said.
Headteachers and school management teams are best placed to make decisions about how to manage risks associated with knives and other weapons being brought into schools, they added.
A knife wand or arch can be part of an effective response to an identified risk, they said, adding that this can help to prevent knives or other weapons being brought into schools.
The spokesman added: "We know that the majority of schools provide safe environments for pupils and teaching staff, and it's important that they remain so."
What did police have to say?
While most of the children suspected of bringing knives into school in Suffolk were of secondary school age, three were 10 years old in 2018 and an eight-year-old was listed as a suspect in 2016.
Lock knives, kitchen knives and pocket knives were among weapons seized last year.
Supt Cutler said the rise in crimes recorded may be down to schools finding better ways of reporting them.
But she added: "Once a person picks up a knife, they are more likely to be the victim of violence or come to harm.
"Some of these will be children that have probably watched something on TV and thought 'oh my dad's got that pen knife, I'll take it in to show my friends at school', that kind of thing.
"But some may have decided they are fearful and carry a knife, perhaps they haven't got the structure around them to give them the support or tell them it's wrong."
MORE: Gang culture is 'robbing childhoods', warns police chiefSupt Cutler said police work closely with schools to ensure children get a regular, consistent message around knife crime.
When a knife is found schools often deal with the incidents themselves and then refer it onto police who work with teachers, staff and sometimes social services to help the child and investigate any underlying issues.
"We have had a big push in the last year in schools to educate children and young people about knife crime, county lines and gang culture," she added.
"It's about looking at the bigger picture, are they at risk, do they need help, what needs to be put in place to make sure that child is able to thrive and make sure they don't get involved in violence."
Parents urged to 'have conversation' about knives
Supt Cutler said police work closely with schools to ensure children get a regular, consistent message around knife crime.
When a knife is found schools often deal with the incidents themselves and then refer it onto police who work with teachers, staff and sometimes social services to help the child.
WATCH: Film explores what led to the rise of youth violence in Ipswich"We have had a big push in the last year to educate children and young people about knife crime, county lines and gang culture," Supt Cutler added.
"It's about looking at the bigger picture, are they at risk, do they need help, what needs to be put in place to make sure that child is able to thrive and doesn't get involved in violence."
She also said the eight-year-old suspect would have been dealt with and supported in the same way as the others.
But someone that young may not have realised the seriousness of bringing a knife into school, she added.
Supt Cutler urged parents to have 'the conversation' and talk to their child about knives, setting out the facts.
Advice packs are available from the Suffolk police website.