Demand for anti-stab vests as knife crime sweeps Britain

July 6th, 2008 - 3:41 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 6 (IANS) Public sector employees are to get body armour as a knife crime wave sweeps Britain with police saying it has eclipsed terrorism as number one priority. Thirty-two knife deaths have been reported in Britain this year, 18 of them from London alone and activist groups and the media have launched campaigns to check the menace. Hospital trusts and local authorities have decided to supply body armour to frontline workers, including A&E staff, hospital porters, teachers, benefits officers and traffic wardens.

The Local Government Association said councils had started responding urgently to staff who “need a greater level of protection”. Already more than 20,000 sets of Home Office-approved body armour have been issued to local government staff.

The Oxfordshire-based Body Armour Company said it had received about 10,000 orders for protective vests from local government, with frontline NHS staff accounting for most of them. The most popular item requested by councils is the 300-pound Home Office-approved KR1 stab vest, according to The Guardian.

Body armour firms will Sunday meet staff from the Royal Parks authority, which maintains London’s green spaces, to discuss supplying stab vests for its 120 staff.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is urgently considering whether to require doctors to report stabbing injuries to the authorities, thereby allowing the police to gather intelligence about gang attacks that would not otherwise be reported to them.

The move confirms worries that official crime figures underestimate the number of attacks taking place, and intensifies fears that some victims are settling their own scores rather than going to the police.

The Metropolitan Police in London has set up a special 75-member task force just to deal with knife crime. More than a 1,000 people have been arrested so far, reports the Evening Standard.

The Sunday Times quotes a report by a think tank, to be published next week, as saying that there are more than 60,000 muggings at knifepoint annually. More than half of the young victims of knife crime do not report it to the police and 45 percent do not even tell their parents.

For young people, carrying a knife is either a way of demonstrating to their friends, and the world, that they can look after themselves or a means of protection. It fails on the latter count; those carrying knives are much more likely to be victims. A fifth routinely carry knives, a proportion rising to more than half for those excluded from school, the report says.

The Sun reports about a campaign against the crime wave by a 46-year-old mother, Helen Newlove, whose husband was killed by thugs last August. Her campaign took her to Capital City Academy in Willesden, North London, recently.

“We asked all the youngsters who had been in the company of someone carrying a weapon to move to one side of the room - and I was horrified that the number who had massively outweighed the number who hadn’t,” she was quoted as saying.

Night vigils, special church sermons and awareness lectures are part of the scores of campaigns launched across Britain. The Mirror has launched a “Stop Knives Save Lives” campaign, supported by celebrities including soccer star Rio Ferdinand.

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