Knife crime in Sussex has almost trebled over the last nine years, according to a recent report.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show there were 1,012 crimes involving knives or sharp instruments over the year ending June 2019 – compared with 346 for the year ending March 2011.
The 192 per cent increase dwarfs the national average of 44 per cent and shows no sign of abating, with countywide knife crime rising by a further 11 per cent over the past year.
The chief executive of anti-knife crime charity the Ben Kinsella Trust, Patrick Green, said the figures were ‘very disturbing’.
“We often associate knife crime as a problem that only affects big cities, but more and more we are seeing knife crime incidents occur in more and more places,” he said.
“We must act now by giving the police the resources they need to take knives and those who carry them off our streets. But the police acknowledge that they can’t just arrest their way out of this problem.
“On top of this we must do more to educate young people about the dangers of knife crime and help them to make safer decisions to stay safe.
“No child is born carrying a knife, it is learned behaviour. The Ben Kinsella Trust has shown how effective prevention programmes can be in tackling knife crime and this is something that we need to do far more of.”
Knives were most commonly used in assaults, accounting for just over half of the total knife crime in Sussex, according to the October report.
Around a third of crimes involving a bladed implement were robberies, which had increased in frequency by 23 per cent from June 2018 – compared to the national average of 11 per cent.
Of the 309 robberies reported, one quarter involved the use of a blade.
The number of police officers in Sussex has been slashed over the last decade, falling from 3,213 in 2010 to 2,645 in 2018, a drop of 18 per cent, as austerity cuts implemented by the Conservative government left the force needing to make £90million in savings.
Sussex Police’s assistant chief constable, Julia Chapman, said the force was taking steps to tackle the problem.
She pointed to the education and enforcement work of Operation Sceptre, a twice-yearly campaign including education on knife crime, knife amnesties to hand in unwanted weapons and undercover testing of age restrictions in shops.
“We would expect offences to increase due to this publicity,” she said.
“The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has secured £1.3 million in funding to help tackle knife crime, which includes funding for Reboot, our youth early intervention programme, as well as targeted high visibility patrolling and the use of knife arches (scanning devices).
“In addition, we are also set to recruit an extra 129 frontline police officers by 2021, which will further help to tackle the most serious crimes in our county.”
ACC Chapman added Sussex’s robbery rate was the 22nd lowest of the 42 forces in the UK and that random robberies were ‘relatively rare’.
Overall, the crime rate in Sussex has increased at a slower rate than the rest of the UK, rising by five per cent compared to the national average of six.
The force has been effective in tackling non-violent theft, reducing the rate by two per cent since last year. Shoplifting was down by six per cent and burglary was down by four, both in line with the national average.
The Ben Kinsella Trust was set up in memory of 16-year-old Ben Kinsella who was stabbed to death in London in 2008. It campaigns and educates nationwide about the dangers of knives.