MORE than 250 knives were collected and 35 arrests made during a “successful” anti-knife campaign last week.

Of this impressive haul, 96 knives were taken from residents and handed in at police stations across Berkshire.

And a top police chief has said a key part of the success of Operation Sceptre -- the scheme launched in a bid to reduce the threat of knife crime -- came from placing knife amnesty bins around the Thames Valley.

Assistant Chief Constable Christ Bunt said: “A large number of the seizures came from our amnesty bins. It's good that we are now coming out of lockdown so we're able to use that tactic.

“We are looking around [to see] whether we can put them in more locations that will make them as accessible as possible to people that may want to use them which is some work we're doing at the moment but they proved hugely successful.

“The issue with knives is the prevalence of them. So that's one of our tactics that we deployed.”

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In Berkshire, the bins were placed at Loddon Valley, Maidenhead, Newbury, Reading and Slough police stations.

Another method used by Thames Valley Police was test purchase operations, where officers investigated 85 local retailers to determine how easy it is for shoppers to buy knives.

ACC Bunt added: “We went to shops and retail premises that sell knives, with a view to checking they're not selling them to people underage.

Image via TVP.

Image via TVP.

“[We’re] trying to reduce the number of or the availability of knives on the streets, particularly for young people, so that’s also an important part of the work we are doing.”

Launched under the tagline, ‘knives ruin lives’, another of Operation Sceptre’s goals was to raise awareness of the dangers and consequences of carrying a knife, and in particular, tackling serious youth violence.

And for residents in Berkshire, headlines from the past 12 months have highlighted just how much of an impact knife crime has on communities.

In June 2020, Khairi Saadallah stabbed and murdered three friends in Forbury Gardens in a terror attack which shook Reading.

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And in January, a Reading family lived their “worst nightmare” after 13-year-old Olly Stephens was stabbed to death in Emmer Green.

Discussing the effect knife-crime has on communities, ACC Bunt added: “It has a huge impact.

“We've seen the very tragic consequences of knife crime, played out nationally but also within the Thames Valley area.

“We've had very tragically a number of murders relating to knife crime and some of those have been, unfortunately, and very tragically, very young people.

“So that just goes to show the significant and tragic consequences of knife crime within our communities.

“It's for that reason that we made this a key priority for the force but also, it's a wider societal issue.

“We do need to work with our communities and we are and we're working with local community groups and voluntary groups to address the root causes of knife crime.

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“We're working with stores, we're working with our local authorities and we're working with health [authorities] as well to make sure that we are working collectively to address the root causes of knife crime, which is really important.

“There is the enforcement action and deterrence and high visibility patrols that we need to be conducting, as we did last week, and there’s a longer term approach that needs to be adopted here, early intervention, working with children in schools and educating them and diverting them away from getting involved in knife crime is going to be absolutely key to our approach.”

ACC Bunt said high-visibility patrols into areas where intelligence suggested people may be carrying knives were also a feature of Operation Sceptre, as were search warrants at identified premises, the deployment of plain-clothes police officers and stop-and-search.

The police chief said he was “very pleased” with the “successful” Operation.

He said: “I’m very pleased with the results that we got last week. Because this is ongoing activity for us, we are running operations all of the time to tackle knife crime because we have got a Violence Reduction Unit here and that enforcement activity is a key part of the work that we're doing as business as usual.

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“We're running operations all the time targeting you know locations are experiencing knife crime but also targeting individuals.

“We made 35 arrests, we took 256 knives off the streets that could have been used for criminal offences. And we will undoubtedly get a number of prosecutions following those arrests as well.

“What it [Operation Sceptre] does is raise the profile of the work that we're doing.

“And for people that are carrying knives on the streets, we want to make sure that they know that if they do there's a good chance you'll be stopped and dealt with by Thames Valley Police.”

If you are worried that someone you know is using violence or is carrying a knife, please report it. We can then take the necessary steps to safeguard them and identify those responsible.

If you need to report a knife related crime to police, please report it to us online via our website, call 101 or dial 999 in an emergency if there is an immediate danger to life.