China / World

Sharp rise in female knife offenses

By Jonathan Powell in London (China Daily) Updated: 2019-08-10 05:57

The number of women and girls committing knife possession crimes in England has increased steeply since 2014, rising by at least 10 percent every year, police figures show.

The highest number of possession cases involving women and girls was in London, but some northern England regions have seen such crimes increase at a faster rate.

Data obtained by the BBC through a freedom of Information requests shows there were 1,509 offenses recorded in 2018, an increase of 73 percent over five years.

It comes against a backdrop of rising knife crime nationally and after the number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales was last year the highest number since records began.

The Home Office said it was investing 220 million pounds ($267 million) into steering both young men and young women away from violent crime.

It supports and funds young people's advocates who work with gang-affected young women and girls in London, Manchester and the West Midlands.

A spokesman added: "We recently announced plans to recruit 20,000 more police officers and empower them to use fair and intelligence-led stop and search, to prevent more young people falling victim to knife crime."

Earlier this year, South Yorkshire Police was one of seven forces to receive extra Home Office funding to tackle violent crime.

The force's assistant chief constable, Tim Forber, said while knife crime is still predominantly a male problem, it is increasingly about "vulnerability" rather than gender.

"It's a very small proportion (of women) but it's a worrying proportion - we don't want to see any young people, any women carrying knives in society.

"I don't think it's any more nuanced, than it is for men, it's about vulnerable young people getting drawn into the fringes of organized crime."

Jennifer Blake is a former gang leader from Peckham, in south London, who now works as a community support worker and independent gangs consultant. She told the BBC that, for some women, a knife is a normal thing to have in your bag, "like lipstick".

She said: "We have got girls that stab, but it's just like the elephant in the room. No one wants to talk about it because no one knows how to deal with it.

"Everywhere you go you have problems with girls and their identity, their self-worth and those are the vulnerable ones that boys end up picking up."

She says some girls and women from broken homes see street gangs as their family and will do anything to fit it.

"Knife, guns, drugs - they are the couriers for it. They're not going to get stopped by police, and the men know that."

In total, between 2014 and 2018 there were more than 5,800 recorded knife possession crimes involving women.

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