Knife crime attacks in Northampton have not gone unnoticed, far from it. Week in, week out, the Chronicle & Echo features more incidents of knife crime that are leaving victims, family members and friends devastated...and readers concerned.
Just under 200 violent and sexual offences – in Northampton Central alone – were reported to Northamptonshire Police in April 2017, 18 of those crimes taking place on or near our town centre nightspot, Bridge Street, just one month after the force launched their ‘Save a life, surrender your knife campaign’.
Police tape – adorning alleyways and parks – is now appearing like bunting.
Kevin McKeever, Labour’s unsuccessful candidate in the crime commissioner election, said knife crime could be blamed on a number of reasons.
He said: “The increase in knife crime is sadly symptomatic of the precarious lives too many people continue to lead in Northampton.
“The rise over the past two years can in large part be attributed to the ongoing economic situation where wages are stagnant, jobs insecure and benefits slashed.
“This has led to an increase in acquisitive crime which in turn becomes violent through the use of weapons.
“Fewer police on the streets means people feel less safe and those who carry knives for protection or status feel emboldened by the belief they will not get caught.”
The Chron spoke to Chief Inspector Lara Alexander-Lloyd in April and she told us there was a worrying trend in young people carrying knives.
“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,” she said. An amnesty was put in place and 143 weapons were recovered.
But since then a man has sustained stab wounds to the chest and abdomen in Kings Heath, a dad was stabbed in the head and neck during a robbery and another victim was taken to University Hospital, Coventry after being attacked outside Mayorhold carpark in an evening attack. There will have been others that did not receive publicity.
Sam Watts, who ran against Stephen Mold for the police and crime commissioner role in 2016 for UKIP, believes people are living in fear of attacks.
He said: “We have got towns all around the county applying for purple flag accreditation that portray them as a safe place for a night-time economy. On the other hand, we’ve got these crime figures that show whatever the police commissioner is doing clearly isn’t working.”
Mr Watts, a former Metropolitan Police officer who worked for a security firm in Corby, said the carrying of knives had created a vicious circle in Northamptonshire.
He said: “We have got to address the problem that people are walking around our streets in genuine fear. Some people think the only way to counteract that is to carry a knife.
“I genuinely believe that a large proportion of people that carry weapons do so for self defence.”
He said part of clamping down on the bladed violence in Northampton will involve doing more to prevent young people joining gangs, particularly in deprived areas.
“If you have young people in an estate that is run down and deprived and you don’t have the same aspirations of others – then you see the drug dealers with the flash cars and latest trainers – that is what young people are aspiring to be. What we need to do is to invest more money into these estates.”
Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North, said the recent incidents of knife crime were very worrying.
“Such violence has devastating effects on victims, families and communities.
“The Government is taking several measures in order to address the issue, including the introduction of minimum prison sentences for those who repeatedly carry knives and also by working to reduce the accessibility of knives.”