Rise in number of knife criminals in Cambridgeshire who reoffend, figures show
The number of criminals in Cambridgeshire convicted or cautioned for knife crime, after previously being caught carrying a blade, has more than doubled over the last three years.
New Ministry of Justice data reveals that Cambridgeshire Police took action against 218 people in the 12 months to September 2018, either for possession of a knife as a weapon or threatening someone with one.
Of those, 67, or 31 per cent, had at least one previous offence for carrying a knife, and 12 of the criminals had three or more past offences.
That figure has increased since 2014-15, when 32 of those successfully prosecuted had reoffended. Police bosses say this could be down to improved identification techniques.
Patrick Green, chief executive of anti-knife charity the Ben Kinsella Trust, said the figures were "deeply depressing" and showed enforcement cannot prevent knife crime on its own.
"This indicates we cannot rely solely on prison if we are going to tackle the small but significant number of habitual reoffenders.
"These are people who are stuck in a spiral of violent crime."
Mr Green said treating knife crime as a public health issue, which is beginning to be adopted in some parts of the country, could start to tackle the “underlying causes of knife crime”.
Across England and Wales, the number of reoffenders increased by 35 per cent over the last three years.
In Cambridgeshire, in 2017-18, 28 children were charged with knife offences. This was a 15 per cent drop on 2014-15.
Mr Green continued: “I’m confident that a public health approach will work, it will stop the next youngsters getting caught in the cycle of violent crime.
“It won’t work immediately, but given time, as we’ve seen in Glasgow and US cities, if it’s properly funded it can be successful.”
Overall eight per cent more people were cautioned or convicted by Cambridgeshire Police for knife offences in 2017-18, compared with the previous 12 months.
The vast majority were for possession offences, while 14 were charged with making threats with a knife.
A total of 80 offenders were sent to prison, 34 were given community orders and 32 received a caution.
Across England and Wales, in the year to September, 21,381 cases were dealt with by the criminal justice system, the highest number since 2010. In one in five cases, offenders were aged under 18.
The MoJ report said offenders are now more likely to receive a custodial sentence for knife and offensive weapon offences.
Justice minister Rory Stewart said: "Knife crime has devastating consequences on families, children and communities. Offenders simply cannot go unpunished.
"These figures show we are catching and prosecuting more of those carrying knives and other weapons, and sending them to prison for longer.
"But we must do more, and through the Government's Serious Violence Strategy we are working to prevent young people from ever picking up a knife in the first place."