A weapons amnesty is being held for a week from Monday 16 May allowing people to dispose of items safely and without fear of prosecution.
In July last year the Offensive Weapons Act was updated, making items such as knuckledusters, extendable batons, curved swords and zombie knives illegal to own even if kept on private property. Previously, weapons such as these were only illegal when carried in public.
The week-long amnesty, which ends on Sunday (22 May), will encourage people to hand in knives and other items on the banned list without fear of prosecution.
Bins will be located at Thorpe Wood Police Station in Peterborough and Parkside Police Station in Cambridge.
The weapons amnesty forms part of the national ‘Operation Sceptre’ week of action. A broad range of policing activity will take place during the week, including a large mobile screen, paid for by Proceeds of Crime Act funding, that will promote the amnesty and display key knife crime messages.
In addition to this, there will be a heightened police presence in ‘hotspot’ areas, targeting of people who are believed to carry weapons, engagement with schools and working with retailers who sell knives, as well as completing test purchases. The week will be supported by officers, Specials and police cadets.
The week-long initiative is part of ‘Operation Guardian’ – the Constabulary’s ongoing strategy to combat knife crime in the county.
Possession of an article with a blade or point offences increased by 27% in Cambridgeshire in 2021/22 compared to figures for the previous financial year.
Analysis of recent data shows boys and men aged 16-20 are the most common age group to be involved in knife crime.
Where knives are concerned, it is illegal to:
- sell a knife of any kind to anyone under 18 years old.
- carry a knife in public without good reason - unless it’s a knife with a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less, eg a Swiss Army knife
- carry, buy or sell any type of banned knife
- use any knife in a threatening way (even a legal knife, such as a Swiss Army knife)
The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is four years in prison and a fine of £5,000.
There is also the opportunity to dispose of firearms and ammunition as part of a separately run surrender running until 29 May, but these are treated differently. Members of the public need to call 101 to organise a time to attend either Thorpe Wood or Parkside police stations.
People wanting to hand in firearms can remain anonymous if preferred. However, any surrendered firearms found to be linked to criminal activity will be investigated and appropriate action taken.
Inspector Matt Snow said: “An increase of in the number of people caught carrying knives in the county is obviously a concern. One knife is one too many, but it is unclear what impact the pandemic and lockdowns had on these figures.
“The amnesty provides people with an excellent opportunity to dispose of weapons safely and without fear of prosecution.
“Due to the relatively recent change in the law, some people may unwittingly be committing a criminal offence simply by owning items now covered under the Offensive Weapons Act. This is their chance to do the right thing and dispose of those items.
“By getting rid of weapons like this you’ll be helping to make our communities safer and you could even save a life.
“Family and friends play a big part in helping us to encourage young people that they don’t need to carry a weapon and if they own one then now is the perfect time to get rid of it. By having a conversation with them you could prevent them from being prosecuted.
“Tackling knife crime is a priority for the constabulary and this amnesty forms an important part of those efforts as we aim to make Cambridgeshire an even safer place.”
Darryl Preston, Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “When I was elected, I said that I would work with the Constabulary and others to cut crime and keep people safe.
“It is a sad reality that those who carry knives are likely to be young people, they are also the people most likely to fall victim to it. Together we need to dissuade people from carrying weapons in the first place.
“Knife amnesties, like this one, get knives off the street and prevent further victims of this tragic crime.”