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Knife crime in Essex rises by 21% in a year but anti-knife campaigners pledge to continue educating next generation

PUBLISHED: 11:08 17 July 2015 | UPDATED: 12:51 17 July 2015

The knives collected as part of the amnesty.

The knives collected as part of the amnesty.

Archant

The number of serious offences involving a knife in Essex rose from 523 in 2013/14 to 631 in 2014/15.

It was a rise of 21%, and broken down the Crime Survey for England and Wales figures yesterday also showed the number of threats to kill involving a knife more than trebled from 27 to 82, while assaults involving a knife rose by 30%, from 251 to 326.

Ann Oakes-Odger, who founded KnifeCrimes.Org after her son Westley was stabbed to death in Greenstead in 2005, described the statistics as “shocking”.

She said: “Unfortunately in Essex we have had a rise of people moving to the area from London areas, and some of them have criminal records and a criminal mentality.

“There has been a massive reduction in police officers and drug influences are also a factor.

“When my son Westley was murdered, there was not any focus on the issue of knife crime, and it was the result of my personal campaign that education became part of a way of getting through to young people to not to get involved in carrying weapons in the first place.

“We, as campaigners and parents who understand the terrible grief it causes, have been working as hard as we can to get that message out.”

The number of Essex police officers fell from 3,196 in March 2014 to 3,069 in March 2015, the latest official figures show.

Asked if she was frustrated that the figures appear to show people are not listening to anti-knife crime messages, Ms Oakes-Odger said: “It is immensely frustrating but you can’t measure how many youngster we have stopped from going down wrong path because of work being done in schools.

“I feel sad these figures are increasing despite all the work being done but it doesn’t make me say ‘what is the point?’ We must carry on trying to influence young people.”

Other serious offences involving a knife in the research included nine attempted murders, 202 robberies and 12 rape and sexual assaults.

Caroline Shearer, whose son Jay Whiston was fatally stabbed at a house party in Colchester in 2012, said she believed knife crime figures are “a lot higher” due to a lack of reporting.

She added: “We educate young children at schools about the dangers of knife crime. It is interactive, engaging, honest and sometimes very graphic. We have to make sure children understand it and don’t ever forget it. Sometimes the shock has to be given.

“A lot of primary and high schools are signing up now and we are fully booked for September. Hopefully we can keep our streets safer for our kids.”

It was also revealed yesterday that 493 weapons were deposited in the Colchester amnesty bin after it launched five months ago.

Deputy chief constable Derek Benson, of Essex Police, said there is only one knife crime victim for every 3,000 people in the county.

He added: “Just by carrying a knife, a person is running the risk of getting caught, being put before a court and sent to prison for up to four years.

“The force is taking a pro-active approach, including intelligence led stop and search operations to drive down knife crime.”

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