Crackdown on knife crime ahead of feared rise in violence as lockdown eases

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The Met Police has joined a week-long crackdown on knife crime ahead of a feared rise in violence as lockdown measures are eased.

Operation Sceptre will see officers carry out weapon sweeps and give people the opportunity to dispose of knives in amnesty bins across the country from Monday.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said forces will also work with schools to discourage young people from carrying knives.

Metropolitan Police Commander Alex Murray said: “We fully expect as people come back onto the street, and with summer approaching, that people might be tempted to engage in violence, or the ingredients might be there.

“We’ve been spending a lot of the lockdown period preparing and getting ready to suppress as much violence as possible.

“We do expect an increase in crime but we are more than ready and have all our attention focused on it.”

Last year serious violence in London dropped by 26% and Mr Murray said officers also targeted drugs gangs during that time – a key driver of street violence.

Asked what else triggers such violence, he said: “All sorts of factors play into that. Issues associated with drugs, issues associated with money, people wanting money, issues associated with credibility, issues of disrespect.

“Sometimes gangs are baiting each other online. And then we add alcohol, which is a huge contributor to violence on the streets.”

Last summer there was a rise in violence when lockdown measures eased, with senior officers pointing to conflict on social media spilling out onto the streets.

In recent days the capital has seen the murder of 14-year-old Fares Maatou, who was stabbed to death outside a pizza restaurant on Barking Road in Newham, east London, on Friday afternoon.

Fares Maatou Credit: Met Police

His death is the 33rd homicide in London this year, of which 24 have involved knives.

Another non-fatal knife attack saw two girls aged 16 and 17 stabbed in Lambeth, south London.

The younger victim was left in a serious condition in hospital while the elder did not suffer life-threatening injuries.

Four boys all aged 16 and 17 have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

The week of action will see officers in London using knife arches at transport hubs, as well as drug detection dogs.

The force will carry out patrols in violence hotspots and target those wanted for knife crime offences, as well as using automatic number plate recognition technology to target those using the roads to deal drugs.

Officers will visit schools and youth clubs to “highlight the life-changing consequences of carrying a knife” and Londoners are being encouraged to hand in knives at 12 nominated police stations across the city.

NPCC’s lead for knife crime, deputy assistant commissioner Graham McNulty, said: “Coronavirus has been a huge part of everyone’s lives for over a year now but we want to remind people that our normal policing role hasn’t stopped during this time.

“Forces are determined to tackle violent crime and with the restrictions easing, taking knives off our streets and helping people understand the dangers of carrying a knife remains a top priority.”

Mr Murray said that in March alone his force had recovered hundreds of knives during stop and searches.

He said: “Any knife is dangerous but some of those were rambo knives, zombie knives. I’m convinced that activity has saved lives.

“We don’t deny that there is a lack of trust with some members of the community and we’re working really hard to build that trust.

“When we’re stopping and searching someone we’ve got to have the legal grounds to do it, and we must demonstrate that the reason why we’re doing it is because we want someone to not get stabbed or hurt.”

Police are asking anyone with information about knife crime to contact them or, to remain anonymous, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or online.