The Government will announce further measures to tackle knife crime today following several more knife-related deaths.
Speaking in a Downing Street statement, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that he had been in contact with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair and asked to be kept up to date on investigations.<br><br>Mr Brown said the stabbings are "shocking and tragic" and offered his condolences to the friends and families of those hurt.<br><br>He then revealed that the Government will be publishing the first ever cross-government youth crime plan later next week. The plan will contain new enforcement measures, improvements to sentencing, and a new approach to youth crime prevention.<br><br><br><br>"The terrible stabbings that have occurred this week are shocking and tragic, and my thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have been hurt or killed in these attacks.<br><br>"On Monday the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will announce further measures to tackle knife crime, taking forward the approach we set out last month.  Later in the week we will publish the first ever cross-government youth crime plan which we have been working on over recent months. It will contain new enforcement measures, improvements to sentencing, and a new approach to youth crime prevention – including tough parenting programmes targeted on areas with the most problems.<br><br>"We will continue to make absolutely clear that carrying a knife is unacceptable in our society. <br><br>"People prosecuted for carrying a knife are now almost three times as likely to go to prison as in 1997. Those prosecuted for carrying or using knives get far tougher sentences.  Just in the last month, we have announced and put into immediate effect an end to cautions for knife possession, replacing it with a expectation to prosecute.  We are also giving more money and equipment for police forces in key areas to do more stop and searches.<br><br>"I have spoken to Sir Ian Blair about the situation in London, and I know the police are doing everything in their power to bring those responsible to justice.  I have asked to be kept updated on any developments.  I thank the police for their efforts, and urge people to give them any help they can."<br><br>And Met Deputy Commissioner, Paul Stephenson, made the following statement at today’s Met Police Authority Co-ordination and Policing Committee meeting, Friday , July 4: <br><br>Earlier this week we published statistics showing the progress being made by the Blunt 2 operation, which is clearly making an impact on stopping young people carrying knives. <br><br>Some 27,000 people have been searched, leading to 1200 arrests and 500 knives seized. Fewer people are being cautioned as we are now charging 95% of those arrested where there is sufficient evidence. <br><br>Sadly, in recent days two more young people have been stabbed to death. Clearly the message is not getting through. <br><br>To build on the co-ordinated activity already being carried out by all 32 London police borough commands units under Blunt 2, we are increasing the police officer strengths in those boroughs most affected with immediate effect with the establishment of a dedicated 75-strong Blunt 2 taskforce. This is being drawn from resources across the Met – under the leadership of Commander Maxine de Brunner- to increase the drive against known gang members and their associates. It will also increase our pro-active capability in relation to supporting our search operations. <br><br>In addition, senior officers have been tasked to review all current police operations and to identify whether further officers can be diverted to support the effort locally in areas where the knife problem is causing the most concern. This reflects that tackling knife crime is the number one priority for the Met at this time. <br><br>We recognise that our actions impact on all of London’s young people, the vast majority of whom do not carry knives or have any involvement in gangs. However, we believe we have their support in tackling the scourge of knife crime as was demonstrated by the young people of Islington on Tuesday. <br><br>We are really grateful for the support that our officers are getting from the public, community leaders and local authorities across the capital for the tactic of using section 60 powers which have significantly increased the number of young people being stopped and searched. <br><br>Our success will be seeing an end to these tragic deaths but we cannot deliver this on our own. Everyone is being affected by what is going on and we all have to work together to get the message across that carrying knives has got to stop.<br><br>Meanwhile, commenting on stop and search figures contained in the Statistics on race and the criminal justice system in 2006-7 report released by the Government, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "The police have got their priorities wrong when there were four times as many stop and searches for drugs as for offensive weapons like knives. <br><br>"In the current climate, more stop and search must be targeted at those who are carrying the knives and guns which are blighting our streets.<br><br>"The figures show that 42% of searches were for drugs, 22% for stolen property, 10% for offensive weapons and just 1% for firearms.<br><br>"The sheer amount of paperwork required shows just how crucial it is that proposals to streamline stop and search forms are introduced without delay."<br><br><br><br>Commenting on figures showing the rise in reported racially motivated crime is substantially lower than the British Crime Survey’s figures, Chris Huhne said:<br><br><br><br>"It is appalling that racially-motivated incidents have risen so sharply and that victims feel that it is not worth reporting them to the police. <br><br>"The contrast between reported racial incidents and the survey evidence is a wake-up call for the police in their relations with minority communities."<br><br>And the Tory Shadow Home Secretary, Dominic Grieve called on the Government to adopt Conservative proposals to reduce the red tape around ‘stop and search’.<br><br>He described stop and search as a "vital tool in the battle against knife crime" and repeated a Tory pledge to reduce the bureaucracy associated with such forms. Grieve added: "If the Government is serious about freeing up our police to combat the scourge of knife crime they would adopt our proposals."