Cherie: I worry when my children are on the streets

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Cherie Blair said today she feared for her children when they go out in the street - warning that knife and gun crime among teenagers was more common than official figures suggest.

The QC wife of former prime minister Tony Blair claimed there was evidence that crime statistics do not reflect the true extent to which under-16s are carrying arms.

Her comments, based on her participation in a recent investigation into young people using knives and guns, follows a string of high-profile teenage deaths at the hands of fellow youngsters.

The latest fatality was 16-year-old Ben Kinsella, who was stabbed to death outside a north London bar on Sunday.

Mrs Blair - appearing as Ms Booth before the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee - said: "As a parent I am concerned about what's happening when my children are on the street and I know I am not unique in that by any means."

The mother of four, who chaired a Channel 4 "street weapons commission", went on to say it was difficult to gauge youth knife and gun crime using official statistics.

"Anecdotally it seems clear that the perception is that it's much worse," she said.

"I think the evidence that we heard from people on the street and indeed the figures we were getting from hospitals, is that there are more people presenting with injuries caused in this way."

She went on: "Because this is almost a new phenomenon - that younger children are carrying knives and, sadly, using them - the statistics are not looking at the right areas.

"They need to broaden what they are looking at."

Mrs Blair called for more high visibility policing, targeting places where officers know youths often carry weapons. She praised such a project in Hackney, east London.

"If young people think they can carry knives and no-one's ever going to pick them up carrying a knife then they are more likely to take one out," she told the committee.

"Whereas, if they think when they carry a knife that's going to be detected, that may well make a really big difference."