Knife crime in Sussex was more than two times higher than actually recorded over the past three years, due to a ‘system issue’.
Between 2016 and 2018, while completing data about each incident, some officers did not tick a ‘semi-hidden’ box to say a blade had been involved.
The information was shared by Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner during a meeting with Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.
DCC Shiner assured Mrs Bourne that knife crime in the county was relatively ‘still a very unusual crime’ and, even with the correct figures used, Sussex was mid-table compared to similar forces.
In 2016, 296 such crimes were recorded – the figure was actually 665; in 2017, 305 cases were recorded – the figure was actually 729; and in 2018, 298 cases were recorded, when it should have been 827.
In line with police forces across the country, the figures did not include incidents of possession – where some one was caught carrying a blade but had not used it.
Between 2016 and 2018, those figures rose from 540 cases to 594.
Explaining the computer issue, DCC Shiner told Mrs Bourne that the correct data would be sent to the Home Office.
She said: “When there is a crime which is a knife-enabled crime, then there is a box officers need to tick in order to positively say a knife was involved.
“But it’s at a really granular level that that box was almost semi-hidden, if you like, amongst the systems. So we’re putting that right.”
Keen to reassure the people of Sussex that the county ‘really is a very safe place to live’, she added: “If you look at the figures which would be corrected had that box been ticked, then we would be mid-table in our most similar forces around the number of knife crimes that we would have under that category.
“So there was a recording issue which was completely down to the system.
“We’ve uncovered it, we’ve got the solution in progress – but we’re still comfortable with where we are, having included those additional offences within the numbers.”
Sussex Police has carried out continuous early intervention and prevention work to help reduce knife crime and explain to young people in particular the dangers of carrying a blade.
The work includes visits to schools and colleges, carrying out test purchases in shops, and opening knife amnesty bins, where people can hand over their blades.
Mrs Bourne shared news from Crawley Police where officers had visited a school to talk to youngsters – and one young man placed three knives, which he had been carrying for ‘protection’, in the bin.
DCC Shiner stressed the importance of working with the schools, colleges, licensing agencies and trading standards to tackle knife crime.
She added: “The last thing that they want to do is to deal with the consequences of somebody who has been hurt – or a young person who has impacted the rest of their life by being arrested and dealt with for possession or injury.
“So it’s important to all of us that we tackle this. But it’s got to be everybody that does so, not just the police.”