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Detective believes he can 'predict' where fatal stabbings will take place

Flowers near to the scene of a stabbing in east London. Credit: PA

A Met Police detective believes he can predict where fatal knife attacks will take place by looking at knife assault data from the previous year.

DCI John Massey manually trawled through knife crime data over a 12-month period and found the location of more than 3,500 incidents where people were stabbed and cut but survived.

He said he found a link with deadly knife stabbings the following year.

69%
of knife deaths came a year after at least one non-fatal knife assault in the same area.

The research, published in the Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing, found almost 70 percent of fatal stabbings took place in areas where non-fatal knife assaults had taken place the year before.

Prof Lawrence Sherman, study co-author, said using data which focused on assault hotspots was not a "panacea", but it made sense to focus resources.

He said: "If assault data forecasts that a neighbourhood is more likely to experience knife homicide, police commanders might consider everything from closer monitoring of school exclusions to localised use of stop-and search.

"Better data is needed to fight knife homicide."

DCI John Massey said: “These findings indicate that officers can be deployed in a smaller number of areas in the knowledge that they will have the best chances there to prevent knife-enabled homicides.”

The research located 3,506 knife attacks for 2016-17, in 2,048 of London's 4,835 local census areas.

Knife attacks in 2016/17. Credit: Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing

The areas where the stabbings took place were then compared to the location of 97 fatal stabbings in 2017-18.

Out of 97 stabbings, 67 of the killings happened in an area where at least one stabbing had taken place the year before.

Fatal stabbings in 2017/18. Credit: Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing

The current crime statistics do not distinguish between incidents without injury and those where knives have wounded.

Professor Sherman said police needed to improve how they record crime.

"Police IT is in urgent need of refinement. Instead of just keeping case records for legal uses, the systems should be designed to detect crime patterns for prioritising targets," he said.

"We need to transform IT from electronic filing cabinets into a daily crime forecasting tool."

Credit: PA Graphics

Sajid Javid was today outlining his blueprint for tackling the rise in knife crime.

He has said serious violence should be treated like the outbreak of a "virulent disease".