Bereaved mum begs for knife crime action

A MOTHER whose son was stabbed to death in Essex has warned new figures showing a rise in serious knife crime must spark action to tackle the problem.

James Hore

A MOTHER whose son was stabbed to death in Essex has warned new figures showing a rise in serious knife crime must spark action to tackle the problem.

Ann Oakes-Odger was speaking out after latest Home Office figures showed the number of deaths from stabbings had gone up by more than a quarter in the last 10 years.

And figures obtained by the EADT revealed knife crimes in Essex nearly doubled to 1,114 between 1999 and 2004 before dropping year-on-year to 847 in 2006.

Mrs Oakes-Odger's son, Westley, was killed following a row at a cash point in Colchester in September 2005, and since the 27-year-old's death she has campaigned to increase awareness of knife crime.

In the wake of the latest figures, she said yesterday that society needed to change.

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“I am passionate that the only way to overturn that problem is by the community working together and liaising with the police and pulling back respect young people need for their elders, parents, teachers, the police and the law.

“Otherwise our children and grandchildren will pay dearly for this violence that is entrenched in society.

“Kids are committing crimes that are beyond belief - young people seem to have little understanding about the value of a life and we need to bring that back.”

She warned that many youngsters did not realise the risks they take by carrying a blade.

“Knife crime has increased steadily over the past 15 years and I think we are at a critical, critical stage with youngsters carrying knives in the foolish belief that it is for protection.

“Kids don't realise that it only takes the very tiny tip of a knife to hit an artery for it to become a fatal incident.”

Mrs Oakes-Odger believes Essex is leading the way in its efforts to educate youngsters about the dangers of knife crime but she said judges needed to use tougher sentencing powers they have been given.

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker told MPs there had been a rise in deaths from “sharp instruments” from 201 to 258 between 1998/99 and last year.

During the same period there was also an increase in fatalities from hitting and kicking from 89 to 140 and a growth in killings from shootings from 46 to 59.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have recently published a violent crime action plan and have made it clear that anyone who considers carrying a firearm or other offensive weapon will be subject to swift, severe punishment.

“But thankfully gun crime remains rare in this country and we will continue to support police and the courts to do whatever we can to keep weapons off our streets.”

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We take knife crime very seriously and will deal robustly with anyone found to be committing an offence.

“Education remains one of the most important factors in reinforcing the message against carrying knives. Carrying or using an offensive weapon in Essex will not be tolerated, and those that do should be warned that Essex Police will seek to use the full weight of the criminal justice system against them.”

Year Knife offences in Essex (any crime in which a knife was used or was present)

1999 599

2000 658

2001 666

2002 842

2003 960

2004 1,114

2005 954

2006 847

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