Is knife crime a rising problem in Suffolk?
PUBLISHED: 11:27 22 December 2016
The sister of a young man who was stabbed to death in Sudbury in 2009 has urged people to think twice before carrying a knife.
Holly Watson, 23, is speaking in the wake of four stabbings in Ipswich this month in which two men lost their lives and two others were seriously hurt.
She said: “It’s absolutely terrible, it’s horrific, and just before Christmas.
“I don’t understand why people do it, and as I’ve always said it’s not just the person it affects it’s the family and the friends. It’s such a ripple effect.
“It’s not something you just get over, a murder takes a lot of years to come to terms with and accept.
“There are lots of anti-knife crime campaigners, there are lots of police, everyone is trying to do their bit, but yet it still keeps happening.”
Five years ago Miss Watson teamed up with Suffolk Constabulary to launch the Bin a Blade campaign after her brother, Lewis Watson, was killed at the age of 23 during a night out in Sudbury.
Between January 2011 and October this year, 16,922 weapons have been surrendered in amnesty bins across the county.
Miss Watson, of Burkitts Lane, Sudbury, said: “It is a bit of a minefield because I always said from the beginning I’m under no illusion that gang members are going to hand in their knives, but I know a lot of ninja death stars, flick knives, a lot of
illegals have been handed in, which if they are out of circulation that can only be a good thing.
“I think it’s good just to give people an option. It’s just giving people that alternative saying: ‘you haven’t got to carry it, you can give it up and be safe’.”
Reflecting on the loss of her older brother, Miss Watson, who is a trainee dental nurse, said the pain would never go away.
“It completely changes your life,” she said. “One day you are one person and you wake up the next day and your life is completely shifted, it’s not what you knew it as.
“With grief it’s not a year, you can’t say you will be better in three years, it’s an ongoing process.
“Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, every milestone, it’s always in the back on your mind and you learn to cope, but you never forget.
“You just have to learn to live a different way.
“Everything you do in your life you hope that your family and friends will be around you. It’s very hard to deal with.”
People caught carrying a knife in the UK can face up to four years in prison.
It is illegal to carry a knife in public without good reason, carry, buy or sell a banned knife, and to use any knife in a threatening way.
Miss Watson’s message to anyone who walks the streets with a bladed weapon is: “Think twice”.
“It’s not just that 10 minutes of doing that, it’s the chain of events afterwards,” she added.
“I think people just need to communicate if there is a problem, try to maybe have a chat about it instead of resorting to something so nasty. It’s just life-changing.”
Knife crime reports have fallen over five years, says inspector
A top police officer has insisted knife crime is not a rising a problem in Suffolk - despite four serious stabbings this month alone.
Inspector Sarsfield Donohue said the number of people committing these offences in the county had actually fallen over a five-year period.
In 2011 police logged 282 knife crimes; then 271 in 2012; 248 in 2013; 230 in 2014; and 201 last year.
Figures are not yet available for this year.
Insp Donohue, from the central Ipswich Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “I would say as far as knife crime goes it’s not something that is necessarily on the rise but we have had a couple of high-profile incidents which has brought it back into the forefront, but I don’t think Suffolk is any less of a safe place than it’s been all along.”
On December 8 a 32-year-old man and a 18-year-old man were stabbed at the West Meadows travellers’ site in Ipswich. Both later died in hospital.
Then on December 18 two men, aged 26 and 30, were found with knife wounds in Foundation Street, Ipswich.
They were taken to hospital and one victim is still deemed “critical” while the other is “stable”.
Suffolk Constabulary has confirmed the incidents are not connected.
It follows a further violent attack at an address in Ipswich’s Siloam Place on November 22.
An 18-year-old man was shot in the shoulder and received treatment in hospital for his injuries.
When asked if there was fear the latest stabbings could encourage copy-cat behaviour, Insp Donohue said: “Not at all.”
“I think the people carrying the knives are going to carry them anyway,” he added. “I don’t think what’s happened will encourage people to carry them.
“As to why they carry them, it’s a range of things.
“In some cases its in relation to some criminality, in others and certainly in some of the younger ones it could be a status thing, or just a bad idea on their part.”
Suffolk Constabulary started its Bin a Blade campaign in 2011, with the help of Holly Watson.
It has seen amnesty bins go up in the main towns across the county for people to surrender their weapons without fear of prosecution.
Over the years the number of knives being dropped in the bins has reduced but Insp Donohue said this was “not unusual” and did not raise concerns for police.
Carrying a knife can have grave consequences, Insp Donohue warned, especially for young people.
He said: “If you’ve got a criminal record for something as silly as carrying a knife when you are a juvenile, even if you haven’t used it for any criminal matter, that could affect you future prospects of travel and employment.
“The other thing is if you are carrying a knife and you pull it out in the circumstances of a fight, that knife could be used against you as well. That’s the other danger - you could lose your life by your own blade, so to speak.
“There are loads of risks and what we would say is it’s really not worth it.”
Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore reassures the public
Security measures have stepped up in Ipswich after a spate of serious attacks.
Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, made the revelation in order to send out a message of reassurance to the public after four stabbings in the town this month.
Mr Passmore said Suffolk Constabulary had committed extra resources to the town while investigations were ongoing.
He said: “First of all, Suffolk is still a low crime county and these incidents of shootings and stabbings are very rare indeed, but I fully understand that people are concerned.
“The constabulary has brought in extra resources and always has that ability if necessary to reassure people and make sure this area is covered while the investigations continue.
“It is my role to look after the public interest and if I thought not everything was being done to keep people safe I would say so, but I’m confident the situation is fully under control and there is no cause for alarm, there really isn’t.”