The case of two 12-year-old boys being recently convicted of murdering 19-year-old Shawn Seesahai with a machete is deeply disturbing and serves as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences that can occur when young people have easy access to dangerous weapons. As knife crime continues to plague communities across the UK, it is crucial that we confront this issue head-on and work towards implementing effective solutions.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there has been an 81% increase in police-recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in the last 10 years (up to December 2023). The problem is particularly acute among young people, with 23% of knife crime offenders being under the age of 18 and the ease with which children are able to obtain such deadly weapons is a major contributing factor to this crisis.

The case of Shawn Seesahai is believed to be the youngest conviction for murder since James Bulger’s killers in 1993. During the trial, the court heard that one of the boys regularly carried a machete and had been passing it between himself and his co-accused on the day of the murder.

This shocking incident highlights the urgent need for action to prevent young people from accessing dangerous weapons in the first place. Research has shown that many young people who carry knives do so out of fear for their own safety, often due to involvement in gangs or drug-related activities. However, carrying a knife only increases the risk of violence and serious harm.

To effectively tackle the knife crime epidemic and prevent more young lives from being lost, a multi-faceted approach is needed that addresses the supply, demand and reasons behind the carrying of knives.  This should, amongst other things, include:

  • Tougher penalties for those caught carrying knives, particularly repeat offenders
  • Increased police powers to conduct stop and search operations in high-risk areas
  • Improved sharing and analysis of data and intelligence with partner agencies
  • Intervention and education programs in schools to educate young people about the dangers of carrying knives
  • Investment in youth services and community outreach programs to address the underlying social and economic factors that can lead young people towards knife enabled violence.
  • Stricter regulation of online knife sales and better enforcement of age verification checks to prevent underage purchases.
  • Innovative use of camera and Artificial Intelligence technology
  • Better monitoring and management of Social Media sites and on-line stores

Some police forces have already implemented a partnership approach to tackling knife crime, using the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) model, which brings together police, health, education, and community partners to deliver violence prevention. By sharing data and expertise, VRUs can identify and support those most at risk, while also delivering hard-hitting awareness campaigns and youth engagement programs.

Similarly, targeted stop and search, knife amnesties, and test purchase operations are widely being used to disrupt the supply of knives.

Some innovative approaches to prevention also include the “Blunt Truth” education package, delivered in schools by frontline officers, using real-life case studies to de-glamorize knife-carrying and promote positive choices.

“School Explosion” events also see officers dramatically arrive at schools to realistically simulate a knife crime incident. Students witness the aftermath, from first aid to arrest, and hear powerful testimonies from victims’ families, driving home the stark realities of knife violence.

More recently the use of VR technology has been used by West Midlands Police in their “Choices and Consequences” programme that gives students an insight into the realities of knife crime.

To make a real difference in the fight against knife crime we must continue to prioritize this issue and work collaboratively with partners to develop innovative solutions. This means investing in prevention and early intervention, as well as robust enforcement against those who carry and use knives, as well as those who permit their sale. We must also engage with young people directly to better educate them and provide them with opportunities that steer them away from violence.

What are your thoughts and experiences on this critical issue?  As law enforcement professionals, what do you think are the most effective strategies for tackling knife crime and preventing young people from carrying weapons? What challenges have you faced in your own work, and what support do you need to be more effective?

Please share your comments and insights below.