Smith launches crackdown on knife sales

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The Independent Online

The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said there was "not one easy quick way" to tackle knife crime, as she launched a new crackdown on selling knives to youngsters today.

More than 20 retailers have agreed to the campaign, which will involve new signs warning that proof of age will be required if the buyer appears to be under 18.

Ms Smith said she wanted to see the scheme "wherever knives are being sold" and added that it was just one of a number of measures being used to tackle knife crime across the UK.

She also announced a new attempt to prevent gang-related violence by using injunctions, a measure previously blocked by the courts.

Speaking at the launch of the initiative at a supermarket in south London, she said that it would send a "really clear message" and would limit the availability of knives on the street.

"If we're going to solve it, it's going to need the police, public, voluntary groups and the private sector working together," she said.

"There's not one easy quick way of solving it.

"It's going to involve all of us thinking hard, working hard and working together."

Ms Smith said the scheme would "play an important role" in reducing knife crime, but admitted it would not be enough on its own.

"It limits the availability of knives on our streets, which is what we all want to see," she said.

"We're also working very hard with the police in terms of their enforcement activity, making sure we're keeping knives off our streets, being tougher in terms of the sentencing around knives, getting in early and particularly telling young people about the dangers of carrying knives and now working with the private sectors, and retailers in particular, to ensure that we're enforcing the laws that we've put in place."

Alf Hitchcock, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said the scheme would be a "real step forward in our drive to tackle knife crime".

Last month, compelling evidence emerged that knives were increasingly the weapon of choice for violent criminals.

Figures released by the Metropolitan Police showed that the number of fatal stabbings rose last year as the number of deadly shootings fell.

Britain's largest police force said there were 83 knife killings last year, compared with 74 in 2007. The number of gun murders fell from 30 to 17.

The knife statistics reflected continuing fears at every level of society about gang-related youth crime.

A record 30 teenagers were killed last year including a series of high-profile street attacks.

In the 13-19 age range, the number of fatal stabbings increased from 17 to 22, while the number of fatal shootings fell from eight to three.

Today, the Home Secretary also said a new power to prevent gang-related violence would be introduced in the Policing and Crime Bill.

She said she wanted to make sure that people tackling youth crime and gang-related crime "have all of the tools they need to do that".

The proposed new injunction would enable a court to impose a range of restrictions or requirements on an individual, such as banning them from entering a specified place, wearing so-called gang colours, or using or threatening to use violence.

She said a similar measure used previously was "unfortunately turned over in the courts".

But she said they had been used successfully by Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police in 2007 to deliver a reduction in firearms offences, woundings and robberies in key gang affected areas.

She said: "Now I'm giving Parliament an opportunity to make clear that this is, when it's related to gangs, a very good way for police and others to actually be able to use the law to help people to stop being in gang-related violence and give them a way out as well."