Video report by ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw
Knife crime in Kent has increased threefold over a decade, with more offences taking place in Medway than any other district.
Figures obtained by ITV News Meridian show reports across the county involving a blade have risen from 1,041 in 2011 to 3,589 in 2021.
Medway – which includes Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham – recorded 668 reports last year, the highest of any Kent Police district.
That was followed by Thanet (436 reports involving a knife), Swale (352), Canterbury (333) and Gravesham (300).
Senior officers have said they are “hell bent” on addressing the problem with a “multi-faceted and multi-agency” approach.
Detective Chief Inspector Matthew Talboys said: “We are pursuing those people who are carrying knives and pursuing county lines gangs who are using knives as part of their business model.
“Sometimes there is this glamorisation of holding a knife – but that is not right. It’s an abhorrent crime which we want to make sure we deal with robustly and appropriately in Kent.”
WATCH: Det Ch Insp Matthew Talboys, Kent Police
It comes as police forces across the country carry out targeted anti-knife crime activity this week as part of Operation Sceptre.
This has involved ‘knife sweeps’ using metal detectors and volunteer search teams in areas including Folkestone and Brighton & Hove.
Figures for Sussex, obtained via a Freedom of Information Request, show far fewer offences reported to police than in Kent.
There were 847 reports in 2017, rising to 957 by 2021. But while incidents have gradually increased, the proportion of investigations resulting in someone being charged or summonsed to court has dropped. From 20.3% in 2017 to just 12.75 per cent by 2020.
That fall has been blamed partly on some victims not cooperating with police enquiries, according to the force lead for knife crime.
WATCH: Ch Insp Simon Yates, Sussex Police
Chief Inspector Simon Yates from Sussex Police told ITV News Meridian: “One of the main reasons is down to victim fear – peer pressure, a bit of a gang culture. So, it’s up to us to gather all the possible evidence to be able to prosecute without the victims' support, if need be.
“Our message is clear, if you are in possession of a knife, you are 70 per cent more likely to become the victim of your own knife. And the impact of knife crime is just vast.”
Responding to the fact Medway has recorded more knife incidents than any other district of Kent over the past five years, Inspector Vanessa Foster from Kent Police said: "Medway is a safe and vibrant place for people to live and we intend to keep it that way.
"Tackling knife crime is a force priority, taking a zero-tolerance approach to knives and weapons in our communities at all times, bringing those who carry knives to justice and tackle the culture around carrying weapons."