December 11, 2008 / 6:00 PM / 9 years ago

UK knife crackdown leads to fall in stabbings

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A police crackdown on knife crime in 10 "hotspots" across England led to big fall in stabbings and teenagers carrying weapons over the summer, the British government said on Thursday.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said a rise in police searches and checks on shops selling knives to young people helped to reduce attacks in areas taking part in the campaign.

The crackdown began in June after a wave of teenage stabbings and shootings fueled a national debate over youth crime, gangs and the state of British society.

"The tough, targeted action we are taking in 10 areas is making a real difference on the ground," Smith said in a statement. "More people are being stopped and searched, fewer knives are being found and if you do carry a knife, you are three times more likely to be sent to prison."

The government said the number of teenagers being admitted to hospital with stab wounds fell by 27 percent between July and September compared to last year.

There were 17 percent fewer serious knife crimes against young people, including murder, attempted murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

London saw knife crime against young people fall by nearly a fifth between April and September, compared to the same period in 2007. Youth violence during the week of Halloween was down by nearly a third.

Police carried out an extra 10,000 searches each month and seized 2,200 weapons. They used handheld metal detectors and temporary airport-style walk-through machines.

Opposition Conservative party Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said the government had achieved short-term results in selected areas and it must take further action to stop the problem permanently.

"We need concerted and tough action in the short, medium and long term," he said. "As well as deploying more police on to every street for good, knife offenders must face an automatic presumption of jail, not a slap on the wrist."

The 10 police forces taking part in the scheme are: Essex, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Metropolitan Police, Nottinghamshire, South Wales, Thames Valley, West Midlands and West Yorkshire.

The campaign is due to run until March next year.

Reporting by Peter Griffiths; editing by Steve Addison and Paul Casciato

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