Police kitted out for crackdown on violent crime

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The Independent Online

Police will be issued with metal-detecting equipment to help them find those carrying guns and knives, under new government proposals designed to give a higher priority to fighting violent crime.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, will announce today that the Home Office will pay for hundreds of metal-detecting arches and search wands to be used around the country. The collapsible arches will be erceted temporarily outside places where people might carry knives, including pubs, nightclubs or even schools. The move is designed to calm mounting alarm over the numbers of stabbings and over gang activity.

A £1m campaign will also be launched in the summer to warn young people that carrying weapons does not protect them but increases their risk of becoming a victim of violent crime.

And police forces will be told to focus more on serious crimes such as murder, wounding and death by dangerous driving, even though such offences represent a small proportion of the overall crime rate – some 19,000 such crimes were committed last year.

With alcohol a factor in almost half of all violent offences, there will be a renewed crackdown on binge-drinking, to complement recent moves to clamp down on under-age drinking.

Police, health workers, social services and councils will be asked to share information on individuals and addresses linked to binge drinking. Ms Smith yesterday signalled her dismay over the cut-price alcohol offers from some retailers. She told the BBC: "There is not one single, simple solution to this, but we do need to look at the impact of price. There should be action taken about irresponsible promotions."

The new policies were unveiled as Ms Smith announced parents would get new powers to check with police whether people with regular, unsupervised access to their children have convictions for child sex offences. The scheme will be trialled in four police areas – Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Cleveland and Warwickshire – and, if successful, could be rolled out across England and Wales.

It will allow single mothers to ask police whether potential boyfriends have child-sex convictions before they start a relationship.