Gun and knife crime reports in Canterbury are at their highest for three years.
Crime reports relating to ‘firearms’ increased from four reports in 2016, to 20 in 2017. Over half of the reports were regarding ‘violence against a person’.
Similarly, knife crimes reports rose from 58 incidents to 78, with 51 of these incidents categorised as ‘violence against a person’.
Following a Freedom of Information request to the police, statistics showed that possession of a weapon in Canterbury has risen for the last three years.
Matthew Scott believes there are a ‘number of reasons’ why gun and knife crime is on the rise in Canterbury.
He said: “Kent Police is recording crime better than it has done for some time.
“So more offences are being recorded, but at the same time we know that there has been some trends of higher numbers of offences involving these things.
“We’re not complacent about that. We have Kent Police teams who are dealing with organised crimes and gangs and also we have operations going on whereby they’re targeting people who are causing the most harm.
“We do have an issue with better reporting, but we do have a national issue whereby we are seeing a trend of some of these offences on the rise.”
The Police Crime Commissioner mentioned how Kent Police are targeting violent crime, and he is soon introducing a new violence reduction challenge, working with partner organisations.
Despite a rise in statistics, Mr. Scott doesn’t think there is a ‘problem’ in Kent.
“We do have particular hotspots within the county, I don’t wish to say that we have a problem with knife and gun crime in the county. I think we do have issues with increasing offences.
“But Kent is generally a safe place to live. We’ve seen crime falling, anti-social behaviour falling, but what we have to deal with is the challenge of gangs and organised groups coming out of London who are being more violent, who are being more vicious and encouraging young people to get caught up in these issues.”
The Young Lives Foundation is a children’s charity to help vulnerable children and CEO Stephen Gray thinks young people in Kent are being groomed into gangs.
He said: “We have noticed a sharp increase in the number of vulnerable young people we are supporting who have found themselves involved in gang related activity, many of whom have done so unwillingly following a period of grooming.
“It would appear to us that vulnerable young people across Kent are being intentionally targeted and recruited by experienced gang members.
“We are learning that once an individual is involved in a gang it is really difficult for them to become ‘uninvolved’ as the gangs have powerful ways of ‘owning’ young people by creating debts and making threats should they want to leave.
“We have seen some very distressed young people who feel trapped and traumatised by their experiences.
“This is why at the Young Lives Foundation we are working closely with Kent Police, the local authorities and other organisations to tackle this issue at both a preventative and reactive level across the county.”