SPECIAL REPORT: What can be done to tackle shocking knife crime increase in Northampton?

Chief Inspector Lara Alexander-Lloyd believes knife crime has increased in recent years in Northampton.
Chief Inspector Lara Alexander-Lloyd believes knife crime has increased in recent years in Northampton.
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A meat cleaver-wielding man threatening bus passengers, a male chasing and stabbing a passer-by in the leg on a residential street and a park-goer being slashed with a scalpel.  It could be the plot of a horror film. But it’s not.

These are all real incidents reported in Northampton – in the past month alone.

Officers pose with some of the knives handed in at a recent amnesty.

Officers pose with some of the knives handed in at a recent amnesty.

Now, a top police officer has warned that there is a worrying trend of young people carrying knives that will continue to grow unless something is done about it.

And Chief Inspector Lara Alexander-Lloyd’s observations come just months after three people were stabbed and two others threatened with knives by a gang of teens in the east of Northampton.

Speaking to the Chronicle & Echo at Wootton Hall about plans to tackle gang violence this week, the Chief Inspector talked about the increasing number of blades being carried and used on our streets.

“There is an increase in knife crime, I am being honest and up front with you,” she said.

A zombie-knife handed in at a recent amnesty.

A zombie-knife handed in at a recent amnesty.

“I need to understand a little bit more potentially about why that might be and if nationally this may also be the case.

“What I would say is there are positive points. We are arresting people and we are putting preventive measures in place to arrest people.”

The rise in seemingly ultra-violent acts has not gone unnoticed among Chron readers too, many of whom feel perpetrators have no perception of the consequences of wielding a knife.

Seemingly simple squabbles are taken to life-threatening new heights with the addition of a blade.

Northamptonshire Police has launched a campaign to stop young people joining gangs, which are often associated with the rise in knife crime.

Northamptonshire Police has launched a campaign to stop young people joining gangs, which are often associated with the rise in knife crime.

An alarming amount of crimes reported in our pages feature young adults and teens working together in intimidating gangs, outnumbering victims before brandishing a blade.

But it is fair to say this hasn’t gone unchecked by Northamptonshire Police either, who have recently launched a new social media campaign to target gang violence.

For savvy social media users, the campaign is called #gangsruinlives and is targeted at Wellingborough, Rushden and the eastern district of Northampton to alert people to the police’s website, which has information on how to notice the signs of someone becoming involved in a gang.

“Some of the reasons people join gangs are around family, it can be a generational thing,” said the chief inspector.

A total of 143 knives have been handed in at recent knife amnesties.

A total of 143 knives have been handed in at recent knife amnesties.

“Their dad could have been a drug dealer, so it’s easy for them to become a drug dealer.

“It happens generation after generation.

“There is also exploitation linked to gangs.

“For example, it’s easy for a gang to approach a young person and say could you just run this package from A to B for me and I’ll give you £100.

“If you’re 15 years old, that’s good, that’s a lot of money, but that’s why the campaign is about saying ‘actually, are you noticing a change in somebody you may know’?”

“There is a multitude of reasons why somebody might join a gang.

A machete brought in by a member of the public.

A machete brought in by a member of the public.

“There is research around a sense of belonging and people caring for them.”

Chief inspector Alexander-Lloyd is the silver commander for Operation Worcester, which aims to tackle drugs and firearms offences.

As part of a national campaign, running from May 1 to 8, the force is putting measures in place to tackle knife crime.

Officers will be “hot-spot patrolling” in areas where there has been more reports of knife crime, including disrupting known carriers of knives and visiting their home addresses.

As well as this, the force will be using ‘knife arch’ metal detecting equipment and wands, in layman’s terms, a black electrical wand, used for a quick search, which indicates if people have metal on them.

Over the last few months, the Northampton Central policing team has collected 143 edged weapons and knives during a three-day amnesty event, including samurai swords and butchers cleavers.

“I take the positive from it, had we have not done the amnesty there would be 143 knives still out there that we hadn’t recovered,” the Chief Inspector explained.

“The anonymity part really does work, and it’s something that has been successful with firearms, so it’s something that we continue to do.

“I was surprised with a number of weapons handed in, there is a big variety, but I’m really pleased people have done it and it’s a positive sign that people in the community wanted to hand them in.

“The possession and the recovery of weapons, isn’t the sole reason for an increase, but it is important that the weapons you see on Twitter from my proactive teams is generally when we have arrested somebody and recovered that weapon.

“It’s positive that we are recovering, but I understand community concerns that people might be carrying them.”
Part of the trouble with knives is that they are so accessible, she says.

In some cases teens are obtaining dangerous blades in shops rather than on the black market.

Chief Inspector Alexander-Lloyd said: “There is work we can do to get around this, working with shops and asking if they are selling them to underage people as the majority of people can access a knife very easily.”

She said between April and the beginning of October last year there were spikes in knife crime and alcohol was likely to be a contributing factor.

“Last year, particularly, we saw quite a few spikes in knife crime, whereas this year, the beginning part of the year we did see a small spike in knife crime but actually it has stabilised now.

“Last year concerned me more than the beginning of this year.”

If you want to report knife crime, or someone you know is carrying a knife in your area, contact the police by dialling the 101 number.
Reader Donna Taylor said: “We moved away from Northampton three years ago. The level of violence and crime seems to have rocketed in three years. Shame as I loved living there and now I feel glad to be away from it all.”

Manuel Moreira added: “I’m wondering what is the limit for the police or other authorities take some action. Does it need someone to die?”

And Michael Raftery said: “They need to bring a special team in from the Met to totally whip out the low-life drug dealers in Northampton then crime will drop.”

Swords were among the donated blades.

Swords were among the donated blades.