Just 14 per cent of the 441 offences involving knives reported South Yorkshire Police in 2019 resulted in a suspect being charged with an offence. Since 2015 nearly 40 per cent of the force’s knife crime investigations have collapsed after they were unable to identify a suspect.
This has been most common outcome across this period, with the number of people charged declining year-over-year since 2017 to a five-year low in 2019.
In those cases since 2015 where a suspect was identified, the age was as young as ten. The most common age was 18.
Sahira Irshad from Mums United, a Sheffield-based group set up in 2018 to help tackle knife crime, gang culture and anti-social behaviour, said social media and easy access to online content plays a role in youth violence.
She told The Star: “We have to be mindful about how much you can open up a whole new world to innocent children whose brains haven’t developed fully.
“If a child has access to all these mediums it needs to be moderated. More needs to be done by the people that are running these apps to ensure they are child friendly.”
Despite the number of knife crime offences recorded by the police declining over the last three years, the number of offences reported was 63 per cent higher in 2019 than in 2015. These figures, released through a Freedom of Information request, do not include murder offences involving knives or crimes which have not been reported, so the true extent of knife crime in South Yorkshire could be much worse. To date, nobody has been charged with the murder of 18-year-old Isaiah Usen-Satchell, who was stabbed close to his Norfolk Park home in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
The victim did not support further police investigations in more than a third of cases last year – a five-year high.
Sahira, who has two children aged seven and 12, added: “Gang culture doesn’t happen in a way where there’s a predator lurking in the shadows. Friendships are formed and negative behaviour is normalised and before they know it they are in a circle of friends where they will do anything for them.
“Knife crime is a symptom of a greater endemic issue. It’s very difficult to break the bubble and cycle of gang culture. We need to do a hell of a lot more in engaging with the youth and communities and bridges need to be built between the police and the communities.”
Detective chief inspector Jamie Henderson, force lead for armed criminality at South Yorkshire Police, said: “Knife crime can have a devastating impact on our communities and we are relentless in our efforts to tackle it.
“The majority of knife crime in South Yorkshire does not involve the use of a weapon, but covers those found in possession or suspected of making threats. We are proactive in our approach to tackle the issue before a weapon is ever used. Our Violence Reduction Unit and Serious Violent Crime Taskforce are making significant progress in ridding our streets of weapons, arresting suspects and taking enforcement action against those who could potentially pose a danger to our communities.
“Early intervention is key when addressing the behaviours and lifestyle choices associated with carrying a knife. More closely than ever, we are working with our partners to target those who may be susceptible to becoming involved in this type of criminality and educate them about the dangers.
“We cannot do this alone. Our work with our communities, with schools, and with healthcare professionals makes up a collective effort to tackle knife crime at the earliest opportunity.
“Everyone has the power to help us by sharing what they know. Information, feedback and support from our communities is key. I’d urge people to call 101 or report anonymously to the independent charity, Crimestoppers.”