Stevenage inspector on child knife crime increase – and what is being done
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
With a growing number of young people carrying knives in Hertfordshire, Operation Edge was set up by police in Stevenage last year to help tackle the issue.
Inspector Simon Tabert, who has been a police officer for 27 years and played a key part in setting up the scheme, has spoken about knife crime in the town.
He told the Comet: “Based on my experience in Stevenage, I strongly believe the cases of knife crime – based on the people we see that are offenders – can be identified when they are still quite young.
“Some of the people we have dealt with in the last year we’ve known for some time, albeit for things like antisocial behaviour and damage crimes.
“There are exceptions to the rule, but a common factor seems to be poor achievement at school. Many don’t actually attend school, and may have been to a pupil referral unit or excluded. “Some are from backgrounds where they have had a lack of parental interest. Most of them are from poorer social economic backgrounds with no aspirations and poorer expectations for adult life.
“Teachers know who the problem pupils will be in junior school, they can spot them and have an instinct about them.
“By the time they reach a certain age, around 14 to 16, it’s difficult to reverse. All instances have lead to that child being where they are.
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“But there are organisations that can do extensive work with these kids.
“Through the winter we were relatively quiet, and it’s all blown up again in February. The intelligence we’re getting back seems to show there are strong territorial elements which has been historical in Stevenage and there’s more revenge crime at the forefront with county lines still there in the background.
“This is not just a police issue. This is an issue of the targeted support workers, mentors, people who are on the outside of the fence working with them.
“Changes to how granting bail is also making it a lot harder to make sure we get police bail. When we arrest them on suspicion of a knife-related offence we have to release them under investigation.
“Operation Edge has recently carried out a survey and have had 2,000 responses on how young people in Stevenage are being affected by knife crime. This will provide us with a snapshot which has never been done before.
“In terms of the effect in schools, we now have very good liaisons with the schools. They tell us when things are going on so we can be there to support them. The kids talk in schools, but the incidents happen outside.”