Incidents of knife crime in Croydon have nearly doubled in the past year, with 13 murders in the borough since January 2016. But police shortages in Croydon have become so bad that there were no officers available to visit the family of a recent stabbing victim, and a lack of budget prevented full forensic tests being conducted on the weapon.
Croydon MPs, the council leader and other local government officials have made a call for more resources, for the police and the council’s trading standards department, in a bid to end what they called “the dramatic escalation of knife crime” in the borough.
Steve Reed OBE and Sarah Jones, the Labour MPs for Croydon North and Croydon Central, signed a joint letter with Tony Newman, the council leader, to the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, in which they called for more police.
“The inadequate level of resources available have left the police and other public authorities with insufficient resources to tackle this alarming situation,” they wrote.
Across England and Wales, official figures show a 20 per cent increase in knife crime in the past 12 months. In Croydon, the increase has been 94 per cent. There are more knife crimes committed in Croydon than any other London borough, bar one.
Meanwhile, test shoppers working for trading standards have continued to catch out shopkeepers breaking the law by selling knives to juveniles.
The Local Government Association blames irresponsible retailers for putting lives at risk, as it has found almost a quarter of shops in some areas breaking the law on under-age knife sales. Some shops have been caught out selling blades to children as young as 12.
In test purchases carried out in one area for Trading Standards, an underage teenager was sold a machete, another was sold a lock knife and a 14-year-old managed to buy a nine-inch serrated knife.
In 96 out of 725 test purchases carried out by London Trading Standards and the police across the capital last year, knives and blades were sold to children as young as 13.
In Croydon, one trader who sold a four-piece craft knife set to two underage teenagers has been ordered to pay more than £2,000 in fines and costs following a prosecution by the council.
It is illegal to sell knives to anyone aged under 18.
Perhaps mindful that the Tory Government’s “Magic Money Tree” only seems to work when the interim Prime Minister Theresa May needs to buy votes in the House of Commons, the LGA wants the retail industry to fund the cost of test buying operations and to work more closely with councils to help improve compliance.
“Despite most retailers passing test purchases of knives, trading standards teams at councils across the country are uncovering some shocking abuses of the law,” said Simon Blackburn, the chairman of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board.
“Knives are lethal weapons in the wrong hands and it’s vital that shops do all they can to prevent them falling into the hands of young people. Just one illegal knife sale could have tragic consequences. Knife crime has risen significantly in the past year. Clearly there are many different ways that people access knives, whether from home, high street stores or online sales, but we need to make sure that the retail supply of knives is managed robustly across all sales points.”
In Croydon, the letter from Reed, Jones and Newman to the Home Secretary said, “We are extremely concerned about the dramatic escalation of knife crime in Croydon. Over the past 12 months, incidents of knife crime have gone up by 94 per cent and are now the second highest level in London. The borough has also suffered 13 homicides since January 2016, again the second highest level in London.
“The inadequate level of resources available have left the police and other public authorities with insufficient resources to tackle this alarming situation.
“The parents of an 18-year-old boy stabbed in Norbury Park two weeks ago say they were told police could not visit the family at home because of a shortage of officers, and were further told that full forensic tests on the weapon used could not be carried out because of a lack of funding.
“Residents in Strathyre Avenue phoned 999 when a large group of gang members used cars to block the road then conducted a street fight. They were told there were no officers available to attend and residents should stay indoors with the windows and doors closed while the gang fight raged on the street outside. This occurred just days after a mass gang fight in nearby Thornton Heath Rec involving knives and machetes.
“This week, there has been a further knife attack on a young man in Croydon town centre.
“You will appreciate the growing level of alarm residents now feel, and we share their insistence that action must be taken to keep people safe. The current level of resources including police officers in Croydon is insufficient and we request your urgent intervention to ensure the police are properly equipped to keep the streets of Croydon safe from knife crime.”
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