Northamptonshire criminals carrying knives being targeted by police operation

Superintendent Dennis Murray issued warnings to criminals carrying knives
Superintendent Dennis Murray issued warnings to criminals carrying knives

People who carry knives should expect to hear from police "very soon" according to a superintendent at Northamptonshire police.

This week Northants Police are taking part in a nationwide campaign to tackle knife crime called Operation Sceptre which will see police increase their use of stop and search, weapon sweeps and other activities to target and prevent knife crime.

Police are targeting knife crime in a week-long national campaign called Operation Sceptre

Police are targeting knife crime in a week-long national campaign called Operation Sceptre

Superintendent Dennis Murray said: "There will be targeted stop and search, where we have got intelligence the focus will very much be on them. If they are going to carry knives, expect to hear from us very soon.

"We have a number of people where we know their criminal pattern is to carry knives so there's a real focus on them."

He said stop and search would be proportionate and based on intelligence and information.

Addressing concerns that stop and search might disproportionately target black, Asian and other ethnic minorities or create hostile relationships between police and communities, Supt Murray said: "We are always looking to avoid it, I want proportionate use of stop and search."

Supt Murray said stop and search always has to be conducted with reasonable grounds of suspicion and officers must be recording the search on worn body video.

Between February and July 2019, Northants Police conducted 1,025 stop and searches. There was a police outcome in 242 of the searches and no further action for 783 searches.

The force's use of stop and search is also scrutinised by panels made up of members of the public who highlight areas of concern and positives, which is passed on to officers.

Supt Murray said for innocent members of the public who might get stopped and searched there will always have been reasonable grounds but added: "The research shows the best you can hope for is they feel they had a neutral experience, they’re never going to feel good about it."

He hopes that officers following the stringent guidelines will explain the reasons for the search by following the acronym GOWISELY (which you can read in full below).

Other police activities this week as part of Operation Sceptre include knife amnesties, knife arches and weapon sweeps.

Supt Murray said: "This week in Corby there is a knife amnesty in Asda and if people want to come and hand knife in, they can ring 101 and tell us."

Those wishing to hand in their knives should call police before and wrap it up so it's not an open weapon.

Supt Murray said this is a procedure they want them to follow because it stops people who are stopped and caught with knives from using the excuse that they were going to the amnesty if they have not already called ahead.

The police will also be using knife arches and Supt Murray said: "We will use them in the night-time economy in town centres for evenings and we can use them in schools, although more as an educational exercise."

Weapons sweeps will also be taking place in areas where criminals might be hiding knives and other weapons.

"There are key areas where we will basically sweep bushes, behind walls and we have recovered weapons like this in the past", said Supt Murray who added that criminals will hide weapons outside their property in the hope police will not find them if they searched the property with a warrant.

However, Supt Murray said if weapons believed to have been used in a criminal offence are found in a sweep, they would do all they could to link the offenders to the weapons.

Supt Murray added: "People who carry knives are normally involved in other types of criminal activity."

The police hope that through Operation Sceptre other forms of crime will be disrupted, like county lines criminal gangs. As part of this aim, Northants Police is working with British Transport Police to tackles travelling criminals using weapons.

The police will also be carrying out purchasing tests, to make sure retailers are following guidelines on the sale of knives.

Supt Murray said although this week the force would be taking part in the week-long Operation Sceptre, the measures would not be a one off and would continue in order to make sure the county is "a hostile place for criminals".

The superintendent said police will be seeing those who carry knives "very, very shortly".

The GOWISELY acronym used by officers conducting stop and search is as follows:

G for grounds for the search

O the object the officer is searching for

W the warrant

I for identification to prove the officer is a police officer

S the station which the officer is attached to

E the entitlement of the citizen being search to all copies of the paperwork

L the legislation that gives the officer the right to stop and search

Y for you are being detained for the search or the purpose of - informing the citizen why they are being searched