CRACKING down on knife crime remains a high priority for Greater Manchester Police (GMP) after annual figures found more than 1,000 criminals in the region were cautioned or sentenced for knife and weapon offences.
Ministry of Justice statistics revealed 1,093 knife and offensive weapon crimes led to in a caution or sentence in Greater Manchester in the year to March – though this was a decrease of 11 on the year before.
This means there were 44 offences per 100,000 people in the area, down from 45 the year before.
The figure includes possession of, or threatening with, a knife or other offensive weapon, but do not include all offences, such as murder or assault.
GMP Detective Superintendent Chris Downey said: “We are committed to taking a collaborative approach to tackle knife crime across Greater Manchester.
“We are continuing to build on the already successful work that has been ongoing for some time, which involves partnerships with Greater Manchester Combined Authority, National Probation Service, health and education professionals, youth justice and local authorities.
“Operation Sycamore is GMP’s response to tackling serious violent crime, with a particular interest in knife crime.
“The key aims of the operation is to understand the causes of knife crime with a particular interest in the younger members of our communities, and the gathering of intelligence to target habitual knife carriers once they have been released from custody.
“Operation Sycamore is led by the team in the Greater Manchester Violence Reduction Unit (VRU).
“The VRU was set up in October 2019 with funding from the Home Office, to bring together police, local authorities, youth services, health, education and schools, as well as other criminal justice partners, to tackle serious violence.
“These experts work closely with academics, health professionals and community leaders, to provide insight into the problem of violence across Greater Manchester and to work with communities to provide solutions.
“The work of the unit is part of the wider approach to tackling violent crime, such as making sure victims of violent crime get the right support, improving the criminal justice response to all forms of serious violence, engaging with schools to increase awareness of the consequences of getting involved in violent crime, identifying and working with young people at risk of violent crime, and developing a community-led approach to prevention and early intervention.
“Funding from the VRU has been given to all districts to proactively target knife crime hotspots using tactics such as stop search, weapons sweeps, knife arches, and covert and overt policing deployments.
“In 2019 we launched Operation Concept and have made huge in-roads into reducing the number of knives imported in to the UK, thanks to the partnership with web-based selling platforms.
“These websites were well known for the selling of knives and offensive weapons at affordable prices and were easily accessible due to the lack of security measures in place, meaning young people could easily access them online.
“We have now evolved Operation Concept, to tackle the importation of knives, working closely with Border Force and Royal Mail by intercepting packages at source; preventing them entering our communities.
“Those who purchase the weapons receive follow up visits and in an increasing method, are subject to search warrants being executed at their addresses.”
The force also launched its forever amnesty campaign in January, which has led to hundreds of weapons being taken off the streets of Greater Manchester.
Det Supt Chris Downey said: “There are now 14 forever amnesty bins permanently placed in locations throughout the region.
“These allow people to dispose of knives in a completely safe and anonymous way.
“More recently, we have developed a more integrated way of working with youths within the criminal justice system to educate them and ensure they are supported in moving away from criminality.”
If you have concerns about someone you know or care about who is carrying or hiding a knife, or if you are aware that knives are being concealed in your community, call police on 101 or visit GMP’s LiveChat service at gmp.police.uk.