News story

Government and retailers tackle knife crime together

More major high street names join scheme to help prevent sales of knives to under-18s.

Four new major retailers have joined the voluntary agreement to prevent the underage sale of knives, Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism Sarah Newton announced today (22 December).

Boots UK, the Co-op, B&Q and Aldi have committed to ensuring safeguards are in place on the sale and delivery of knives by ensuring age verification checks are robust, including regular staff training, and ensuring knives are packaged and displayed securely.

They join Tesco, Lidl UK, Wilko, Argos, Morrisons, Asda, Poundland, Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, Amazon UK, Ebay UK and Waitrose who signed up to the agreement in March this year, delivering on the commitment to extend the agreement to further retailers.

Between July and September this year, 4,937 knife possession offences were formally dealt with by the criminal justice system and 19% were juvenile offenders.

There has also been an apparent increase in the number of young people aged 10 to 15 reporting knowing someone who carries a knife, so raising awareness of the risks and consequences of carrying a knife is an important part of the government’s knife crime prevention approach.

Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism Sarah Newton said:

Knife crime can have devastating consequences and we will act wherever necessary to reduce violence and keep our communities safe.

It is very important that retailers have robust checks to prevent sales of knives to under 18s, both in stores and online, and I welcome the commitment from Aldi, B&Q, Boots, Co-op to help tackle this issue.

Our modern crime prevention strategy published in March set out a range of measures to strengthen our response to knife crime, but we know there is more to be done and we will continue to work with the police, retailers and voluntary groups.

Andrew Pope, Head of Risk, the Co-op, said:

We are committed to supporting efforts to tackle knife crime and would urge all retailers to implement restrictions to prevent the sale of knives to children. These measures, such as proof of age at point of purchase and the safe and secure packaging of such products, can all help to make local communities safer.

The agreement on sales of knives is part of a wider approach to tackling knife crime which includes law enforcement activity. Police forces undertook a series of co-ordinated weeks of action to tackle knife crime under Operation Sceptre in February, April, June and October this year.

In October, 21 police forces across the country took part in Operation Sceptre which includes targeting habitual knife carriers, weapon sweeps, test purchases of knives from identified retailers, and use of surrender bins. Sarah Newton attended a weapons sweep in Brixton to see first-hand the law enforcement response.

Over the course of the week of action:

  • 474 retail premises were visited and 391 test purchases carried out
  • over 1,200 weapons were seized
  • there were over 1,100 weapon sweeps in six police force areas
  • more than 300 arrests were made
  • over 720 knives were places in amnesty bins

National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Lead on Knife Crime, Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock, said:

Police forces across the country have responded to continuing concerns around knife offences, which have started to increase following a long-term downward trend.

In our latest operation, Operation Sceptre 6, we targeted habitual offenders in crime hotspots, resulting in hundreds of arrests and 1,200 weapons seized. The service has also worked with Trading Standards to identify retailers who are failing to meet their responsibilities under the law on selling.

There is no easy solution to the scourge of knife crime, which impacts our communities and their feelings of safety. Tackling violence involving knives remains a key priority for the police service and we intend to keep up the momentum. More activity is already being planned for 2017.

In August this year the government also banned the sale, manufacture and importation of zombie knives by adding them to the list of prohibited offensive weapons.

Ebay UK and Amazon UK have also made a commitment to enforce age restricted sales through their marketplace.