SENIOR police and politicians have hailed a massive 80% drop in the number of youths caught carrying knives in Glasgow.
By Matt Coyle
THE NUMBER of under-16s reported to Strathclyde Police in the city for being in possession of a knife or offensive weapon has plummeted by around 80% in just five years, new figures reveal.
In 2006 a total of 194 youths were found in the possession of a blade. However that figure has dropped dramatically to just 39 in the last year.
The figures, obtained exclusively by the Cardonald Courier through a Freedom of Information request, show similar drops in the number of young teenagers reported to police for being in possession of an offensive weapon, including bats, clubs, poles, hammers and screwdrivers.
The number of offenders dropped from 377 in 2007 to just 107 in the last year.
And one of Scotland’s most senior police officers has hailed the success of both the police, its partners and the Scottish Government in tackling the problem but warned a lot of work still had to be done.Chief Inspector Graham Goulden, who heads up the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit’s national Anti-Violence Campaign said: “I think as a police officer any drop in violence, any drop in violent crime – including knife crime – is fantastic and is testament to the efforts of not only the police but a range of other agencies working together in Glasgow and throughout Scotland to establish the significant drops we are seeing.
“We have to start realising that violence is a problem for everyone, not just a problem for the police. Knives don’t kill people, people kill people and we still have a culture in Scotland were in more than 50% of murders, a knife or a blade is used, that needs to change.
“We need to take on board these positive improvements and look at tackling the behaviours that contribute to the violent offending. Yes, it is great that we have this significant reduction in knife crime but we can’t lose focus and must continue with the work we are doing while we have the upper hand.
“I really am seeing a lot of improvements. I co-ordinate the national Anti-Violence Campaign and what I see is all the forces and various agencies coming together and showing that they are willing to share their practices.
“If something works in Glasgow then the trick is how can we make it work in other parts of Scotland?
“Violence requires a more realistic approach to tackle it and strong, effective partnerships along with instilling good attitudes within our communities will continue to bring about the sustained reductions in violence and knife crime that we are beginning to see.
“We are never going to totally eradicate violence but what we can do is bring about good reductions in violence, exactly like we are seeing in Glasgow and start making violence totally unacceptable.
“We need a magazine of interventions to allow us to continue in the direction we are going and get to the bottom of the problem.”
Families, friends and relatives of victims of knife crime go through a lifetime of pain and suffering, but many publicly campaign for stronger sentencing powers and police enforcement driven by the pain of the loss of their loved ones.
Darren Pyper died at just 14 years of age from a single, but fatal, knife wound to his leg in 2007 after trying to defend his friend’s father from a frenzied attack in Renfrewshire, just outside Glasgow.
The tragic events turned his mother Margo’s world upside-down and although that fatal day was almost five years ago, the pain has not numbed.
But Margo organised an anti-knife march a year after her son’s tragic death and has been involved in campaigning ever since.
She said: “He left for school that day at 8.45am and I never saw him alive again.
“Ever since we have wanted to show people what it is like to live in the aftermath of knife crime. The past few years have been horrendous. Not just for me, but for all Darren’s friends.
“Darren was a lovely boy, outgoing and bubbly. He was never shy about giving me a kiss or a cuddle in front of his friends.
“There are days when I do not even want to open my eyes in the morning. I hope people would think twice about picking up a knife. If we can stop one family going through this it will have been worth it.”
Councillor Matthew Kerr, executive member for social work on Glasgow City Council, said the figures brought a lot of hope for the future of the city’s young people and emphasised that all agencies must continue to work together to prevent the police being left to “mop up the mess”.
He said: “I am very happy. It shows a lot of hope for the future of our young people, of course.
“If less and less young people aren’t getting caught in that cycle of violence against one and other then it can only be a positive thing for the future. You have to look at the whole picture; there is no point in just leaving the police to mop up the mess, which is often what they end up having to do.
“But what we’ve realised is that when a young person first comes in to the system, even with a very low level incident, if we can grab a hold of them, and the criminal justice people in social work can divert them before they become seriously embroiled in violence, or knife crime, or any sort of criminal activity, then amazing things can happen.
“It is already paying dividends. It sounds awfully easy but it requires an awful lot of support and that is what we try to provide. When we find one of these young people who we think are on the cusp, we throw everything at them; give them everything they possibly need by way of support.”
The Scottish government has rolled out their “No knives, Better Lives” campaign throughout Scotland with great success. The scheme contributed to a 35% reduction in knife carrying in Inverclyde and a 29% reduction in knife carrying in neighbouring Renfrewshire during the period of campaigns there.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These figures prove that the tough anti-knife measures on our streets are working, and working well, with Scotland’s police forces carrying out a record number of searches on the streets.
“As well as enforcement we need to educate young people about the dangers and consequences of carrying knives, which is why the Justice Secretary has announced a doubling of the funding for No Knives, Better Lives initiative for 2011-12 to roll it out to new communities of Scotland as well as support further work in existing areas.”