Police boss warns over “lurid” treatment of knife crime publicity

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South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has expressed caution about the way knife crime is publicised - questioning the use of graphic images to illustrate South Yorkshire Police’s new knife crime strategy, which portrays a hand concealing an illegal flick-knife against a black background on its cover.

“I believe we have to be careful we don’t give the impression large numbers of young people are carrying knives, that is not true,” he said.

“I think we have to be careful about not putting into the minds of people things which will frighten them to death.

“I have read a report that 11 to 16 year olds are more worried about terrorism than bullying and getting a job.

“That bears out my point, that we have to be very careful that we don’t talk up these serious issues to the point that we are frightening young people and putting into their heads things which are not true.

“The chances of being involved in a knife attack are miniscule. If we talk about it in too lurid terms, we may cause them to have anxiety.

“We need to make it absolutely clear to young people that it is something affecting a very small number of people.

“That is not to say we don’t go into schools to raise the issue.”

However, the objective was to make it clear knife crime was not an epidemic, “But matters which concern relatively small numbers of people,” he said.

Dr Billings raised his concerns about the police’s choice of images at a Public Accountability Board meeting, where he holds Chief Constable Stephen Watson to account for his force’s actions.

Police are working on different levels to try to control the rise in knife crime, which has escalated nationally, in South Yorkshire, using a range of both enforcement and preventative measures.