On 22nd April police were called to Clifford Avenue after a reported stabbing, sadly there is nothing shocking about this sentence – except this was at 3.13pm on a residential street in Richmond and the victim was a teenager. Thankfully, the injuries were not life threatening, but it is another concerning example of how widespread and indiscriminate knife crime has become amongst teenagers.  How has this type of crime become so out of control and what are the police doing to counter this growing menace to society?

There have been 24 knife related deaths in London since the beginning of the year, 12 of these were teenagers. In the last week alone a teenage boy was stabbed in a playground in Ealing, after refusing to hand over his electric scooter, and in Canning Town, Fares Maatou (14) lost his life in another seemingly unprovoked attack in broad daylight. We can no longer claim that knife crime is an inner city, or drug related issue, the carrying and use of knives is no longer the preserve of adults involved in criminal activities, shown to intimidate or impress others. Knives are now carried and more frequently used by children as young as 12, who have come to see them as part of the way of life. I have witnessed first-hand knives being carried openly in Richmond and even the seemly innocuous Bushy Park. Several weeks ago, a section 35 Dispersal Order was put in place covering most of Richmond Town centre, in response to reports of violence and antisocial behaviour. As this was being put in place, I was subjected to a stop and search by the police. While this was shocking for me at the time, the subsequent reports of knives being found, because of the police activity, were even more troubling.

The police are taking this extremely seriously and are concerned that the lifting of lockdown may cause more issues. To this end they have launched Operation Sceptre, a weeklong crackdown on knife crime. A multi element approach to tackling the increased use of knives. It involves amnesty bins, increased targeted patrols and a softer approach using parents of children killed by knives, in an attempt to reach those who may be convinced to give up the knife and perhaps save a life a result. It is early to say if this operation will be successful, but early indications show it is having some impact. In Twickenham Police Station the amnesty bin contained 122 knives and even a samurai sword, an alarming haul but with these knives off the street and not able to cause any harm in my neighbourhood, it would be the first step in tackling the knife crime epidemic.

As we return to a more normal life after lockdown, teenagers will naturally want to explore, socialise and enjoy our new found freedoms, we can only hope that the danger caused by carrying and using knives does not become a frequent part of our everyday life.