Condon warns of weapon culture

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The Independent Online

A gun and knife culture is emerging among gangs of youths, one of the country's most senior police officers warned yesterday.

Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said action needed to be taken to stop the "frightening" development. He told the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that the number of incidents involving knives in London had risen from 2,332 in 1993 to 2,550 last year.

He told the committee of MPs: "There's a growing willingness, particularly by young criminals, to carry knives and guns in circumstances which I find very disturbing and as a society we must do our best to counter that."

He added " We have an increasing number of loose alliances of young people whether for street robbery, bullying or extortion and there's a growing willingness by young people to carry knives. This is what the police on the street say ... I believe we must stamp on that firmly."

He went on to warn of the "emerging knife and gun culture" among young people.

Sir Paul said he welcomed a private member's bill which will increase the maximum penalty for carrying a knife to six months and gives greater powers of arrest. He would also support any measures to stop the advertising of knives in shops and mail order catalogues that "celebrate" the weapons or suggests they are manly to own.

On the day before the police are due to announce trials of CS spray in 18 forces, he backed the use of the incapacitant and argued that it could reduce the numbers of injuries that police and offenders receive.

He would have preferred to trial pepper sprays in London but had ruled out the devices after medical experts suggested they could be dangerous to asthmatics and pregnant women.

He said that new longer and extendible batons had made " a dramatic" difference to the number of assaults on police officers.