Concern over increasing proportion of youngsters involved in knife crime

The percentage of young people dealt with for knife crime is on the rise (stock image)  Picture: KATIE COLLINS/PRESS ASSOCIATION

The percentage of young people dealt with for knife crime is on the rise (stock image) Picture: KATIE COLLINS/PRESS ASSOCIATION

PA Wire/PA Images

Children and teenagers were behind a quarter of rising knife crime across Suffolk in the last year, new figures have revealed.

Statistics showed the criminal justice system dealt with 199 knife and offensive weapon incidents in the county - up 25% on the same 12-month period to March 2015.

The number of under-18s responsible for knife crime more than doubled in the same period.

One in five (12.5%) cautioned or convicted were aged 10 to 15 - compared to just 3% in 2014/15.

Ministry of Justice data showed 27% of all cases resulted in a jail sentence. In 2014/15, just 19% of cases attracted the same penalty.

But the rise in immediate custody was driven by adults, with 33% going straight to jail, compared to 7% of youths.

Police said the knife crime rate remained lower, at 30 per 100,000 population, than the national average of 42 per 100,000 - with offences still down from the 257 recorded in 2009.

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Terry Charles, who established the grass roots group, Stop The Killing of Our Youth, called for tougher legislation to tackle the culture around carrying knives.

"The system has failed our children because it has given them what they want, not what they need," he added.

"Young people are increasingly prepared to push boundaries when it comes to engagement.

"They're being given too many chances to make the wrong decision. They need to know there are consequences."

Superintendent Kerry Cutler said figures reflected a national trend and, while concerned about the increasing proportion of young people involved, warned against regarding it a widespread problem among all groups, or exaggerating fear of knife crime among young people.

She said police worked closely with partners, including local councils, to engage with schools and ensure young people get a regular and consistent message around knife crime.

"We continue to ask parents and carers to talk to their children about the dangers of carrying knives and the terrible impact that knife crime can have on them, their friends, their family and their community," she added.

"While the majority of young people do not carry knives, it is possible children are in contact with friends who do so without parents or carers knowing."

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