Young people from across Lancashire are leading a research project into the causes and perceptions of knife crime.
The Lancashire Youth Council is producing a report which aims to deter teenagers from carrying knives and challenge the way in which the problem is presented in the media as overwhelmingly involving under-18s. Their findings will be presented to a special summit next month.
Youth councillors have been working with the University of Central Lancashire to explore the available evidence on the subject and devise a questionnaire to understand how the issue is affecting young people in the county.
Members of Lancashire County Council’s children’s services scrutiny committee heard that under-18s accounted for 21 percent of all cautions or convictions for offences involving a knife or offensive weapon in England and Wales in 2018 – an increase of four percent on five years earlier.
“The question we wanted answering is why we are being blamed for the knife crime epidemic, when it is mostly done by adults,” Lancashire Youth Council representative Ollie Moores said.
“As a percentage of the population, young people’s involvement may be high – but are young people being prosecuted because of their naivety? [They] need to be educated on why it is important not to use knives.”
UCLan researchers helped create an anonymous survey with so-called “ethical questions” which allow for candid answers about knife crime activity.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that a small number of schools are being approached in each Lancashire district to help distribute the questionnaire – but Ollie appealed for councillors’ help in getting it shared more widely.
“[Schools] are always wary because it could cause safeguarding issues, but we are trying to put a positive spin on it – we want to make positive changes.
“We are not trying to find information to do anything negative with it – we are trying to improve our communities and our safety,” Ollie said.
The summit to consider the report is expected to include representatives from the police and local authorities.
Committee member Matthew Tomlinson said: “The [draft] report is impressive, particularly in that you can see the research and the professional way in which it has been done – so that augurs well for the future.”