Police chiefs in South Yorkshire are urging communities to play their part in the fight against knife crime – warning six stabbings in Sheffield city centre last weekend could have all been murders.
Six men were stabbed in the city centre as violence flared in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday.
Two men, aged 28 and 33, were injured in Area nightclub on Burgess Street, near Barker’s Pool, a 21-year-old was attacked in Carver Street and three others, aged 20, 22 and 30, were knifed in Division Street.
Extra police patrols around city centre bars and clubs have been ordered in the wake of the attacks but police chiefs want the war against knife crime to begin at home and in communities affected by those who arm themselves on the streets.
Police officers in Sheffield have been granted extra powers to stop and search people in the city centre this weekend to look for those carrying weapons.
Officers plan to concentrate on Broad Lane, Regent Terrace, Cavendish Street, Fitzwilliam Street, Charter Row, Pinstone Street, Leopald Street and Townhead Street.
Detective Superintendent Una Jennings, responsible for overseeing the police response to armed criminality in South Yorkshire, said knife crime has risen by 46 per cent, with 1,176 offences recorded over the last 12 months compared to 807 the year before.
Of those, 322 were incidents in which victims were stabbed, slashed or cut – 27 per cent of the total.
She said police raids and searching people in the hunt for weapons form just one strand of the police approach to ridding the streets of blades and urged parents and communities to help make carrying knives ‘socially unacceptable’.
As part of the ‘Save A Life, Drop The Knife’ campaign run by South Yorkshire Police in recent weeks, more than 50 blades were handed in at police stations while weapons could be surrendered without questions being asked to avoid them falling into the wrong hands.
Det Supt Jennings said knife crime is on the rise because of a number of factors, ‘not least how readily accessible knives are’.
“You can’t enforce your way out of knife-related criminality, as it is so difficult to stop the supply. Go into any kitchen in the county and there are potentially a number of lethal weapons available – control is just part of the solution,” she said.
“Much more fundamental is changing the mindset of those who carry knives and that has to start in the home and in communities.
“Parents, friends, teachers, football coaches, youth workers – people who have an influence over young people – these are the people we want to challenge those who chose to leave home with a knife.
“People need to realise that anyone caught with a knife will be arrested, prosecuted and will potentially face a mandatory four year prison sentence. Those who use that knife and kill someone will be jailed for life.
“The irony is that some people carry a knife for protection but evidence shows that by carrying it they are twice as likely to become a victim of knife crime.
“Just like drink driving and driving without a seatbelt are now socially unacceptable, we want the same for knife crime. We know it is going to take time but changing that mindset has to start in the home now.”
Det Supt Jennings said the rise in knife crime is a national trend and despite the stabbings in Sheffield last weekend stressed the city remains safe.
“There were six people stabbed in the city and that’s not a good news story for Sheffield or policing but this is very unusual. Sheffield is an incredibly safe city,” she said.
“We are taking last weekend’s incidents seriously and we have dedicated teams of detectives involved in investigating them.
“The fact we are not dealing with six murders is more accident than design.”
She warned those who carry knives to think twice.
“There will be ramifications for the rest of your life if you are caught with a knife and serve a custodial sentence,” she said.
“I have seen the way knife crime destroys lives – people dead, families broken and communities fractured. Please think before you pick up a knife.”
The detective said she is confident the police force investing in educating youngsters about the dangers of knife crime at school will reduce the number who arm themselves on the streets as they get older.
Over the last six months, the force’s Guns and Knives Takes Lives project has been delivered to over 2,600 children across the county to drive home key messages about the dangers and consequences of carrying a blade.
Anyone with information should call police on 101.