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How Can We Prevent Knife Crime in the UK?


Worrying figures show how the number of offences involving a knife or sharp instrument increased by 7% last year. In our latest post we look at what people are doing to combat knife crime.

Office for National Statistics data says there were almost 50,000 offences involving knives or sharp instruments, recorded by police, between January 2023 and December 2023. This represents a 7% increase on the same period in 2022. The ONS highlights the startling fact that there was a “noticeable increase” of 20% in robberies involving the use of a knife or sharp instruments.

Worst Areas for Knife Crime Offences

It isn’t surprising to learn how the number of knife crime offences varies enormously across the UK. The West Midlands stands out for having the highest number of these offences at 180 per 100,000 of the population. Next on the list is London and the Metropolitan police area where 165 offences per 100,000 of the population were recorded.

Areas with the lowest numbers of these offences include North Yorkshire where 36 offences per 100,000 of the population were recorded, Sussex had 40 recorded offences and the lowest was Dyfed-Powys (which covers Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys in southwest Wales) where just 32 offences were recorded by police.

Knife crime figures from both Greater Manchester Police and Devon and Cornwall Police were not included in these statistics for IT related reasons.

Surge in Retail Crime

Official figures have shown that shoplifting has surged by 37% in just one year, highlighting the challenges faced by retailers. Surveys show how 35.5% of retail workers have been verbally abused and many have experienced physical assault or threatened with weapons including needles and knives.

Local news outlets are full of very disturbing reports of shop workers being robbed at knife point. In Warrington a thug pulled out a knife when a member of staff confronted them for stealing sandwiches. A knife-point robbery recently occurred in Weston-Super-Mare where a man armed with a large kitchen knife stole cash and cigarettes. And in Birmingham a shop worker has been hailed as a hero after they valiantly trapped two machete wielding, masked robbers inside the store.

Knives in Schools

Incidents have also left teachers and pupils terrified by the knife-crime scourge that’s plaguing UK schools. Just recently, a 10 year old schoolboy “presented a knife” at another pupil in a Dumbarton school. A Freedom of Information request, made to police forces across England and Wales, has revealed that almost 500 children under the age of 11 have been found to be carrying bladed items over the past four years. But it is thought that the true figure could be much higher as only half of the police forces, who were asked for information on youngsters found to be carrying knives, responded with data.

A former teacher named David Simmons set up a youth sporting charity called Changing Lives, after having been threatened by a six year old, armed with a weapon. He has said that government cuts have resulted in insufficient staff in schools, a lack of support for young people and no community police officers.

In London 127 primary school age children were caught with knives, one of whom was aged just seven. And in Suffolk police were alerted to a five year old who was reported to be carrying a weapon. In West Yorkshire a nine year old child is reported to have carried out a knife attack in school.

It has been observed that young people who end up committing these knife crime offences are often those who feel alone when they experience feeling violated. The absence of an adult who they can talk to sometimes results in their feelings exploding in moments of extremely bad decision making.

How is Knife Crime Effectively Tackled?

Revised legislation is in the pipeline, to ban knives over 8 inches in length if they have two of the following three features: a fine edge, a serrated edge or two or more holes in the bladed portion of the knife. Ministers are expected to fast-track this change to make it law in 2024.

Specialist police officers are working with retailers to encourage the adoption of a strict “Challenge 25” age verification policy. Retail staff are to be provided with full and robust training, to make certain they understand they have the ability to refuse the sale of a knife to anyone if they are concerned the knife will be misused, or if the purchaser is drunk, agitated or aggressive.

The rise in violent and abusive incidents toward shop workers has driven a soaring demand for body armour with staff wearing stab vests now a common feature in shopping centres. Retailers have heavily invested in security measures to protect their staff including the deployment of CCTV, body worn cameras and dedicated security personnel. Staff are also being trained in how to deal with challenging customers and how to effectively defuse potentially dangerous encounters.

Schools and colleges face significant challenges to prevent children and youths from entering their premises while carrying knives. It is abundantly apparent that children need help and support both to prevent them from becoming victims of knife crime and from becoming perpetrators of knife crime. It has been noted that the most dangerous time for children is shortly after school finishes, between around 4pm and 9pm. While the children might be safe when on the school premises their safety after school is a major concern.

Schools operate a zero tolerance policy regarding the carrying of bladed items. Good levels of supervision along with clear expectations of pupils behaviour enables staff and school leaders to be highly confident that pupils are safe from knife crime while in school. Ofsted has identified five policy and practice areas that would benefit from further consideration by police and school leaders.

Metal Detecting Wands to Tackle Knife Crime

While legislative and policy changes are clearly necessary and beneficial, those responsible for ensuring bladed weapons aren’t ever brought into a premises face practical, day-to-day challenges. Handheld metal detecting ‘wands’ are now increasingly used by police forces, door security personnel and others who are responsible for security.

metal detector wands
Metal Detector Wands


Handheld metal detecting wands have been distributed to some front line police officers who use them to support their stop and search powers. The wands are effectively used as a screening device, making it more difficult for someone to conceal a weapon.

Metal detecting wands provide a far lower cost, portable and practical alternative to walk-through metal detector arches, as used in airports. And handheld metal detectors are commonly used alongside walkthrough arches, enabling the operator to pinpoint exactly where a metallic object is located on a person’s body. They are easy to use and commonly employed by night club security staff, security personnel at sports events, security at music events and increasingly by schools, colleges and local authorities.

The possibility of being scanned with a handheld metal detector on the way into an event or premises acts as a powerful deterrent, discouraging people from even attempting to conceal a bladed weapon.

Avoiding the Risk of Bias Accusations

One of the key challenges faced by those responsible for security and checking attendees at events or pupils at a school is that it simply isn’t possible to stop and scan every individual as it would take far too long. This constraint is overcome by taking a randomised approach to subject selection and only scanning a randomly selected number of people, without overly delaying throughput. But this presents another challenge - how to make a genuinely random selection.

Accusations of bias, prejudice and favouritism are always likely to arise if operators are left to make their own random selections. What’s needed is a simple way to make genuinely random selections of people or items to be scanned and totally avoid the possibility of being accused of bias in any way. Our Random Search Selector is exactly what’s needed.

random search selector
Insight Security Random Search Selector


This simple device is easily configured to define the percentage of people or items that should be subjected to a metal detecting scan or inspection. The operator is no longer challenged to make a random selection as the device does it for them. All they need to do is press the big red button and the device will randomly tell them to either “Search” or “Pass” the individual, or item, that’s being considered for a scan or inspection.

These devices are not only useful when selecting pupils or students entering an educational establishment or attendees going to sports or music events, they are also commonly used by retailers and large warehouse outlets, to randomly select members of staff for detailed bag searching as they leave their work premises. Random Search Selectors are overcoming worries of bias and prejudice in many situations in which truly random selections are needed.

If you have any questions about the use of security metal detectors, or if you have any special requirements, remember we are here to help. Give us a call on 01273 475500 and we’ll provide you with free, expert advice.

This message was added on Thursday 9th May 2024

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