Concern at Suffolk's continued rise in use of knives in serious crime
PUBLISHED: 16:23 17 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:45 17 October 2019
Serious crime involving knives has increased by almost half in Suffolk since an Ipswich teenager was stabbed to death last June - leading campaigners to suggest 'nothing has changed'.
Earlier this year, Suffolk recorded the country's steepest annual rise in serious crime involving knives or sharp instruments - 51%.
Latest figures showed the rise had decelerated to 46% up to June - a year since the murder of 17-year-old Tavis Spencer-Aitkens.
A total of 230 serious crimes involved sharp instruments in that time - up from 158.
Police said they accounted for 3% of serious crimes - such as murder, threats to kill, robbery and rape - and 0.02% of all crime.
But campaigners said carrying knives had "almost become normalised" for those arming themselves as protection.
Roxanne Chudleigh, who launched Knives Take Lives after Tavis' death and before another fatal stabbing in the town, of Daniel Saunders, in December last year, said: "It's the same old thing. Nothing has changed.
"Communities are trying their hardest - but there's only so much they can do.
"I know a mother of four who was attacked by a drug user and said it made her want to carry.
"Sentences are no longer a deterrent - how long is a life term now? Fifteen or 20 years?
"These people have no respect. They advertise themselves as gangsters online.
"Talk is cheap. We can have all the campaigning in the world, but it's almost becoming normalised.
"Our children are being forced to become adults too early."
Figures showed 14% of robberies involved knives, while overall robbery increased 28% to 511 offences - against a 3% rise in total crime - about half the national average increase.
Weapons possession also rose, but other offences fell, including burglary and vehicle crime (-13%).
Police said Suffolk remained a safe place to live, with a lower than average crime rate of 71.9 per 100,000 population.
Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Kearton said: "It's important to keep these figures in proportion.
"They have gone up, in part, because of the proactive approach we've taken, such as increasing stop-and-search.
"That's a really important tool, but it has to be intelligence-led, and a lot of that intelligence comes from local communities.
"We're also working closely with schools in sending a constructive message that young people can protect themselves without having to carry a knife."
Dep Ch Cons Kearton said knife amnesty initiatives sent a strong message and encouraged the surrender potential weapons.
"There is no glamour in carrying a knife. It doesn't protect you; it heightens risk," she said.
"Increases in violent crime are a concern, but the numbers are still incredibly small and Suffolk remains a safe place to live."