London

London knife crime rises to four-year high

A woman lays flowers after a tourist was stabbed in Russell Square Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Flowers and tributes for stabbing victims have become a familiar sight in London

Fear of violent crime is encouraging young people in London to carry knives, resulting in a rise in stabbings, a police and crime report suggests.

Knife crime in the city has risen to a four-year high following a relatively steady increase since June 2014.

In June 2012 there were 1,719 recorded stabbings of people aged under 25 in the capital compared with 1,749 in August 2016, the report found.

It said gang activity accounted for less than 5% of London knife crimes.

Steve O'Connell, one of the report's authors who leads the Police and Crime Committee (PCC), said: "This is significant, because not many people realise that if you only look at gang violence you won't make much difference to what is happening with knife crime."

Nationally knife crime rose last year for the first time in four years in England and Wales.

The PCC report suggests the dominant driver for young people carrying knives, "appears to be a belief that they need to be prepared to defend themselves." It says fear can also be fuelled by awareness of stabbings in their community.

"If a serious incident occurs, there needs to be a concerted effort by the police and other agencies to reassure young people that they are safe," the report says.

The Met Police said knives were involved in about half of all serious youth crime recorded in London last year, and about a quarter of those victims were girls and young women.

"We know that if you carry a knife you are far more likely to get stabbed, probably with that knife," Matt Watson, of the Integrated Gangs Unit added.

Graham Robb from youth charity Redthread said knife crime tended to show "spikes of volatility" and this rise could be an example of such a spike.

The Met Police said most youth knife crime was committed with regular knives that were readily available in the home. It said intelligence led stop and search was critical to removing those knives from the streets.

In July, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced £400,000 funding to help tackle knife crime.

A spokesman for his office said he would carefully consider the findings of this report and next month he would host a knife crime summit.

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