Surrender a knife, save a life

Stores in Somerset were visited by Trading Standards and police officers last week in a joint operation aimed at preventing the sale of knives to under 18s.

Officers from the Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service assisted Avon and Somerset Police during Operation Sceptre.

Part of the initiative used police cadets in test purchase exercises to see which stores sold items including knives, knife blades and axes to those under the legal age.

Last October several stores in the Mendip area sold knives to the cadets without first asking for ID.

Each store had then received written and verbal advice from Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service.

These premises were visited again last week to check that they now complied with the legal requirements.

Trading Standards officers acted as witnesses and advised both the cadets, during test purchasing, and the police on how test purchases should be conducted.

The shops that failed were told that a test purchase had taken place and the managers and staff members who sold the knives were questioned.

The head of Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service, Paul Thomas, said: “Test purchasing helps ensure that those under the legal age do not purchase bladed items and that traders comply with the law.

“That is why Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service is happy to assist the police in initiatives which will help remind retailers about their responsibilities in selling knives to under 18s young people on the consequences of carrying knives.”

Force lead on knife crime, Chief Inspector Zoe Chegwyn said: “Over the past 12 months, Avon and Somerset saw a 23.6 per cent increase in knife crime, which is higher than the national average of 15.2 per cent.

“Worryingly, nearly 15 per cent of people found carrying knives or involved in knife crime, are aged 17 and under.

“That’s why we are focussing much of our work on education. Over the past few months, we have been working with retailers to educate them about their responsibilities when it comes to selling knives. It’s against the law to sell knives to anyone under the age of 18 and ID should always be sought if the seller is unsure, in the same way they should be checking ID for young people buying alcohol.”