Knife crime in Bedfordshire skyrocketed by 57% in just 12 months and was the biggest rise for any force in the country, according to newly published statistics.
The Freedom of Information figures were obtained by Sky News for its report, which recorded the number of offences from July 2017 to June 2018 and July 2018 to June 2019.
According to the data, the five police forces with the biggest increases in knife crime were as follows:
Bedfordshire - 438 (2017-2018), 688 (2018-2019), up 57%
Suffolk - 158 (2017-2018), 230 (2018-2019), up 46%
Dyfed-Powys - 174 (2017-2018), 253 (2018-2019), up 45%
City of London - 40 (2017-2018), 57 (2018-2019), up 43%
North Yorkshire - 224 (2017-2018), 315 (2018-2019), up 41%
Assistant Chief Constable of Beds Police, Jackie Sebire said: “We have worked very hard to improve our recording and data since the introduction of a new computer system in May 2018, which does account for part of this increase.
“However, there is no doubt that in Bedfordshire we have experienced a significant rise in knife crime and other serious violence, as have other forces across the country.
“One victim of knife crime is one too many and stopping this sort of serious violence, particularly where it involves young people, is one of the force’s top priorities.
“Last month alone we ran weapons sweeps and test purchase operations in shops as part of a national week of action to tackle knife crime; gave around £35,000 to community projects to divert young people away from criminality, and also secured a prison sentence of 11 years over a gang-related stabbing.
“We have lobbied hard alongside our Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, to get additional funding to combat this scourge and have received two grants from the Home Office worth more than £6 million to tackle gangs and serious violence.
“We are using these grants to try and identify hotspots for this type of crime more effectively, while in August we seized more knives than in any month this year, in part because of patrols, searches and arrests made possible by this funding.
“I expect to see these grants making even more of an impact in the coming months.
“It is no secret that Bedfordshire Police faces major challenges from organised crime, and we will continue to argue that we need more resources to take enforcement action against what is often the driver of serious violence.
“But it is absolutely imperative that we adopt a partnership approach with communities to proactively tackle the root causes of this issue, such as fear of crime, poverty and a lack of opportunity.
“That is why our pioneering new Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) is so important. The VERU will do things like fund new and exciting grassroots initiatives to prevent violence, do outreach work with those at risk of joining gangs, and develop a long term structure for how different agencies can work together to stop young people being exploited.
“Getting different statutory agencies, charities and communities around the table to provide a holistic solution to this is absolutely vital. I believe it is through the VERU that we will be able to achieve the real and lasting generational shift that is so important to truly address this problem.”