More than 320 children in Yorkshire have been caught with knives in school since 2012, with pupils as young as four involved in the 661 offences recorded by the region’s four police forces.
The true picture is likely to be even worse due to a lack of available figures for some years but the statistics indicate the problem is growing across the region, with crimes reported including robberies, serious assaults and threats to kill.
South Yorkshire saw 257 crimes recorded, including three incidents involving primary school children who were aged just seven.
In the last school year, South Yorkshire has seen a 151 per cent increase in the number of children reported to be in possession of a knife or bladed weapon on school premises, up from 27 in 2015/16 to 68 in 2016/17.
West Yorkshire Police, which only provided figures for the last two calendar years, recorded a 48 per cent increase in the number of children caught with knives in school, going up from 90 in 2016 to 134 in 2017. A nine-year-old in Leeds was reported to police for wielding a flick knife in school, while 12 sets of knuckle dusters were also confiscated in other incidents, along with a blade fixed to a pen.
Humberside Police’s figures covered 2012 to 2014, during which time 43 children were caught with knives in school, one aged just six. The response also revealed that in East Riding, a four-year-old was reported to have sexually assaulted another child with a sharp instrument.
North Yorkshire Police, which provided data for the four years since 2013, seized 19 knives; the majority of which were being used by children under 14. One weapon was reported to have been used in a robbery, another in a burglary, and three more in violent incidents. Two resulted in injuries or assaults.
Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson of West Yorkshire Police said: “The number of people aged 18 and under reported to be in possession of a knife on school premises did increase in 2017 when compared to 2016 – this is something we recognise and are taking action against. Some of the increase is down to the improved way we record crime but some of it is also a genuine increase. We treat all instances of knife crime extremely seriously.
“Carrying a knife is never the answer. The consequences of getting involved with a knife – either by carrying one or being associated with someone carrying one – can be tragic and deadly. This is particularly so when the youngest in society are involved and our communities are vital to educating young people about the dangers from knives. Around one-third of knife related injuries are actually caused by the victim’s own knife – so you are not protecting yourself by carrying such a weapon.”
Detective Superintendent Una Jennings, force lead for armed criminality in South Yorkshire, said presentations are being given in secondary schools and colleges to thousands of pupils as part of efforts to tackle the issue.
“While we appreciate that we are giving this presentation to children predominantly under 16, it is important that they gain an understanding of how dangerous guns and knives can be. This is an impactive and emotional presentation because that’s what gun and knife crime is – it can have fatal consequences and this should not be forgotten or undermined.
“We are committed to tackling the issue of armed crime and working with young people to ensure they keep themselves safe and choose not to carry guns or knives.”
Temporary Detective Superintendent Joanne Roe, from Humberside Police, said: “One weapon off the streets is one less that can be used to harm or threaten our communities. The fight against knife crime is stronger than ever and we are working with partners and our local communities to safeguard, educate and intervene at the earliest opportunity to prevent weapons being used in crimes in our area.”
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “While the level of youth knife crime is low in North Yorkshire in comparison to other parts of the country, North Yorkshire Police is not complacent to the offence. We will continue to support campaigns such as national weapons amnesties, to encourage those who want to dispose of knives to do so safely and anonymously. Previous amnesties have seen weapons such as swords, sheath knives and crossbows handed in. Every knife we retrieve is potentially a life saved.”
The Government says it is “determined to tackle” the devastating consequences of knife crime in schools.
Teachers can teach topics around knife crime as part of PSHE, and the DfE has launched a call for evidence to invite views on what this subject content should be.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This Government has taken decisive action to put teachers back in charge of discipline in the classroom by strengthening their powers to take action if they suspect a pupil has brought prohibited items, including knives, into school.
“It is of paramount importance that schools provide a safe environment for their pupils, and any incident that does occur is completely unacceptable.
“Knife crime has devastating consequences and this Government is determined to tackle this and do all it can to break the deadly cycle and protect our children, families and communities.”
A new Serious Violence Strategy is to be published by the Government in the next few months, while a public consultation has been launched on new laws on offensive weapons, including plans to restrict online knife sales.