Press statement from Southampton Labour Group – Knife Crime in Southampton
Leading Southampton politicians have questioned Prime Minister Theresa May’s media claims that there is “no direct correlation between certain crimes and police numbers,” following revelations that falling police numbers have played a part in increasing rates of youth knife crime. This comes at a time when nationally offences involving a knife or a sharp instrument are at the highest level recorded.
John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England & Wales, said yesterday that the Prime Minister was “delusional, steadfastly refusing to acknowledge what is plain for everyone else to see, and in the face of a national crisis.” He went on to say: “this is the true cost of austerity we warned of.”
These concerns of leading representatives of the country’s frontline police are echoed by local MP, Alan Whitehead and leader of Southampton City Council, Cllr Chris Hammond who fear that reductions in police numbers locally since 2010 may be seriously undermining efforts to stem the rising tide of knife crime on the City’s streets.
Alan Whitehead supports Labour’s shadow policing minister Louise Haigh in calling for emergency funding for police so that more officers can be hired to bolster numbers in deprived high crime areas like Southampton.
‘I am very concerned about the record low levels of police in our city at a time of rising challenges with particularly more violent crime like knife crime. It is time for the Government to take action before this issue escalates further. Southampton desperately needs its fair share of the increase in the police precept to tackle the complex challenges our city faces’.
Last week the City Council formally wrote to Hampshire’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Michael Lane, and the Cabinet lead on city safety, Cllr Dave Shields is now calling on him to make more frontline police available in Southampton in line with promises given as part of the £24 average increase in the police council tax precept.
“Given the increasing levels of crime in Southampton – especially violent crime – we are fully justified in expecting our fair share of the police resources not just from central government but also from the Hampshire Police & Crime Commissioner. Labour calls on Michael Laine to immediately make available funding for at least two officers in each of the City’s eight neighbourhood policing teams – the equivalent of an extra bobby on the beat in each of the city’s 16 wards.”
Cllr Hammond said: ‘we believe people deserve to feel safe where they live and that means having a properly supported police service. I hope more resources can be found for Southampton.’
- Serious knife crime continues to increase in Southampton, rising by 29% in 2017/18 (after rises of 15% in 2016/17 and 42% in 2015/16).
- No fewer than 250 serious knife crimes were recorded in Southampton in 2017/18.
- Southampton accounted for one quarter of all bladed instrument occurrences in Hampshire in 2017/18 (400 of 1601 occurrences), more than any other local authority area
- Southampton has also recorded the highest number of arrests within Hampshire for possession of a bladed article on school premises (8 instances compared with 6 in Portsmouth and Havant respectively).
- It is increasingly evident that Southampton is impacted by high harm drug networks and there has been a steady increase in the use of knives in relation to drug-related violence since 2016. There has been a particularly large increase in serious knife crime which may be due to particular activity by Hampshire Constabulary in these areas (e.g. Operation Sceptre).
 Metropolitan Police launched Operation Sceptre in July 2015 with the aim of reducing knife crime and the number families affected by knife crime across the whole of London. The launch was designed to coincide with new legislation that means that those convicted of carrying a knife for the second time will face a mandatory custodial sentence. Operation Sceptre seeks to target not only those who carry and use knives, but also the supply, access and importation of weapons.