Knife crime still one of the toughest challenges facing this government

Allegra Stratton

Former National Editor

Today's new crime statistics bring some partial good news for the government and all those trying to get a handle on serious violence but the persistent increase in numbers of those carrying knives shows the fight is far from won.

Offences involving a knife or sharp instrument are up 7%, an increase largely driven by robberies.

There was also a 17% increase in knife possession offences.

The positive developments are that, for the second quarter running the ONS crime statistics show that nationally there has been a reduction in murders - down 6%; and a large 20% reduction in murders involving knives.

It suggests that the policing intensification and focus of 2019 - where a series of brutal nasty murders at the beginning of the year became something of a national crisis - has had an effect.

There has been a 17% increase in knife possession offences. Credit: ITV News

But people are still carrying knives.

When Leeds taxi driver Jason Scherer dropped off his passenger in the early hours of the morning and he didn't have his £3 fare, Jason waived the fee only to be punched and just about manage to put his foot down and sped off.

When he realised one of his backdoors was flapping open he stopped to shut it, put his hand up to his neck and realised he had been stabbed.

Many stabbing victims say it often does feel like being punched at first. His surgeon told him he was very lucky to live.

All for a £3 taxi ride.

The Prime Minister has tasked his cabinet with a 20% reduction in violent crime.

The government has announced £1billion for forces, with £700m recruiting the first 6,000 officers shortly. Boris Johnson is also rolling out his predecessor's solution - the Violent Reduction Units (VRU).

These are modelled on the successful trail blazer in Glasgow which did a huge amount of community work and prevention to bring that city's murder rate dramatically down.

The 18 new VRUs are just getting going, and will help the prime minister reach his target.

Taxi driver Jason Scherer told ITV News younger people 'think it's normal to carry a knife.' Credit: ITV News

But police numbers and VRUs alone will take a while to stop young people carrying knives - many we speak to still feel the need to carry for their own protection.

The Police Federation has said this morning that the police "should not be expected to fight this crime epidemic alone."

Britain's illegal drugs market and the county lines drug supply lines are as strong as ever - something a report expected in the next few days will confirm.

The PM has said he wants to "cut the head off this snake".

Few think police alone will manage to do that.

Cuts to drugs services - that try to manage addicts need for illegal drugs driving so much of the violence and knife carrying - and cuts to youth services, that try to keep kids from needing the protection of violent gangs all make this still one of the toughest challenges facing this government.