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A new report from social justice charity, Nacro, reveals that young people believe fear is the main reason behind carrying knives, and that tougher penalties and longer prison sentences do not deter young people from carrying knives.

Read our ‘Lives not Knives’ report here.

Nacro has today launched the ‘Lives Not Knives’ report in response to growing concerns about the impact that knife crime continues to have upon local areas and students. This report gives young people a chance to have their say in the knife crime debate.

The Nacro report follows recent government figures, published earlier this month, revealing that the number of people cautioned or convicted for carrying knives in England and Wales reached a record high of 14,135 during 2018-19. The publication of the report also coincides with the latest annual youth justice statistics, also published today, which highlight that 4,451 knife and offensive weapon offences were committed by children aged 10 to 17 years between April 2018 and March 2019, in comparison to 2,671 offences committed during the same period in 2014.

The ‘Lives Not Knives’ report reveals that young people Nacro spoke to aged 15-19 believe:

  • Knife-carrying is driven by fear
  • Every young person knows someone that has been a victim of knife crime, or has carried a knife
  • Young people are not protected by the police, and harsher penalties will not deter people who carry knives out of fear
  • Young people have very little to do in their spare time and few positive role models
  • Knife crime is linked to poverty and lack of opportunity and aspiration

In response to these findings, Nacro is calling for urgent focus upon prevention and early intervention and a fundamental shift away from prison being used as the answer. This includes:

  • Stopping the roll out of Knife Crime Prevention Orders and ineffective short prison sentences
  • Increasing investment in prevention by setting up a ‘Second Chance’ Fund for young people who have been excluded and are most at risk, as well as increased funding for education programmes outside mainstream education
  • Establishing a cross government cabinet committee which drives the urgently needed shift towards prevention

Nacro Chief Executive, Campbell Robb, said:

“What young people across the country are crying out for is to be safe on the streets where they live. What this report shows is that the current approach to sentencing will not deter young people who carry knives out of fear.

“Our students have told us that fear of being attacked leads to the belief that carrying a knife is their only option to protect themselves. The threat of prison does nothing to stop this.

“With nearly 7 out of 10  young people released from prison between April 2017 and March 2018 reoffending, we desperately need a different response. Prison is not the answer. We need urgent investment to ensure that young people get the support they need to be diverted away from crime before it is too late.”