Only Cowards Carry founder ‘disheartened’ after Essex records nation’s highest rate for weapons offences

Caroline Shearer who founded Only Cowards Carry is disheartened by the figures. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Caroline Shearer who founded Only Cowards Carry is disheartened by the figures. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

A massive rise in weapons offences has seen Essex record the nation’s highest crime rate under that category.

Figures published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show Essex Police recorded a total of 1,681 weapons offences in the year up to September 2017.

The 52% year-on-year rise means the rate per head of the population in Essex is higher than anywhere else in the country, other than South Yorkshire.

Caroline Shearer, who founded the charity Only Cowards Carry, after her son Jay Whiston, 17, was murdered at a Colchester house party in September 2012, said the latest figures were “disheartening”.

“We’ve been going on about it now for five years,” she added. “The police are doing a fantastic job but that’s where it stops – the judicial system is not backing it up. We need mandatory tariffs, which start at two years minimum for carrying a knife.”

Mrs Shearer, who appeared on television today to discuss knife crime, added: “We are in a downward spiral and it’s spinning out of control – something needs to change.”

Other increases in the figures include a 36% rise in robbery offences and 12% increase in drug offences.

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Overall crime grew by 11% over the year, including a 16% increase in violent crime, which was less than national averages.

An Essex Police spokesman said the county remained a “relatively safe county” with a comparatively low crime rate.

“Drug and gang-related crime is a growing problem in some areas of the county and we know the impact on our communities this has,” the spokesman added.

The force highlighted its success in eradicating the London-based Jay Boys drugs gang, which was jailed for 41 years for crimes committed in Clacton.

And police also claimed 651 of the weapons offences related to incidents at Stansted airport involving mainly non-UK nationals carrying weapons which might be legal in their own country but not here.

“It is our responsibility to remove those weapons and record the offence properly,” the spokesman added.

“We will be raising the issues with British Embassies overseas.”

Essex Police has urged people to dispose of their knives anonymously in bins provided by the OCC charity, which are in locations, including Clacton, Colchester and Braintree.

To support Only Cowards Carry, which is in need of funds, visit its website.

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