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Knives and violent crime

Mark Easton | 16:24 UK time, Wednesday, 11 March 2009

You may recall that last month I asked the home secretary why her infamous knife crime fact sheet had failed to mention that hospital figures for stab wounds were going down before her "Tackling Knives Action Programme" (TKAP) was introduced.

Well, she never replied directly to me but today a Home Office press release finally admits the truth:

"Recently published NHS data for 2007-08 (which pre-dates TKAP), showed an 8% reduction in the overall number of admissions to hospital for assault by sharp object."

clampdown226.jpgI am delighted that this important fact is now in the public domain. Nevertheless, it only adds to the mystery as to why the Home Office decided not to mention it last December when anxieties about knife crime were much higher.

Today's release poses a new riddle, however.

Q: When is a "targeted approach to tackling knives" not a "targeted approach to tackling knives"?
A: When it targets all weapons and violent juvenile crime in all its forms.

In one breath, we are told that an extra £5m is to be used "to extend the government's Tackling Knives Action Programme (TKAP) for another year and to include two new police force areas: Kent and Hampshire".

In another, we are told the money will be used "to tackle a minority of young people who commit serious violence, regardless of the weapon involved".

So not just knives but fists, boots, baseball bats, guns...

We learn that "the programme is developing a broader focus across the wider ACPO violence and public protection portfolio".

The Association of Chief Police Officers welcomes the decision to "coordinate the police service response to violence in all its forms, and the time is now right to expand our approach".

Am I alone in thinking that what the Home Office is actually doing is quietly dumping its focused anti-knife campaign in favour of a broader anti-violence programme?

One can see why ministers should want to downplay this policy shift. Can you imagine the way some of the government's opponents might portray it? "Home Office abandons knife crackdown."

The change seems to make sense, however. If police are so busy looking for blades that they neglect other forms of serious violence, the campaign rather defeats its own object.


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