Police launch youth pilot operation in bid to divert children in Milton Keynes from knife crime

    Thames Valley Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) say they continue to see positive results from Operation Deter.

    After its initial launch in Milton Keynes in July last year, Op Deter has now been rolled out in Slough, Aylesbury and Reading, with an objective of obtaining swift charge and remand decisions for offences involving knives.

    Thames Valley Police say Operation Deter was launched in a bid to focus on prosecution, intervention and prevention.

    Following the rollout tackling adult offending, in January, the Thames Valley Police initiative, driven by PCC Matthew Barber, commenced a pilot scheme in Milton Keynes in partnership with the Youth Offending Team (YOT), aimed specifically at those under the age of 18.

    PCC Matthew Barber said: “Too many people have become victims of knife crime, and the prevalence of knife carrying is a concern for many residents in Thames Valley.

    “This comprehensive approach to tackling not just knife crime but the wider culture of knife carrying will be a template, not just for the whole of the Thames Valley, but a model for other forces to follow.

    “Our communities want an end to knife crime and Operation Deter is making positive progress to divert those who carry knives away from serious offending, which will affect not only the lives of their victims, but also their own lives.”

    Under Operation Deter, officers and other agencies will work with people under 18 to help steer them away from knife crime.

    However, where serious offences are identified, Thames Valley Police will continue to pursue a robust charge and remand, irrespective of the young person’s age.

    Operation Deter lead Detective Chief Inspector Rachel Taylor, said: “Under this new pilot, for the most serious of offences, children under the age of 18 can expect the same treatment as adults – age will be no protection.

    “However, research has shown that a large number of children who carry knives claim to do so through fear of exploitation and this is where the intensive intervention of Op Deter will focus its attention.

    “There are already well-established processes in place for youth justice, but these processes can often take weeks or even months to bear fruit.

    “All this time, children remain vulnerable and offending can continue.

    “By working closely with the Milton Keynes YOT, this new approach will see a child who is arrested getting the support they need, alongside their parent or guardian, not within days or weeks, but within hours, while still in police custody.”

    The intervention work will look at the root causes of offending, and will seek to determine if the child is being exploited and is actually a victim, rather than a criminal.

    The Milton Keynes YOT have a wide range of tools at their disposal, and children will be encouraged to engage.

    In the first month, seven young people under the age of 18 have been arrested as a part of Operation Deter, and all seven have engaged with the programme.

    DCI Taylor added: “The acceptability, whether that is through fear or bravado, of carrying a knife, needs to stop.

    “Part of that solution will be through education, but frankly, there also needs to be a fear of consequences.

    “For too long, carrying a knife has been perceived by some as a “low level” offence.

    “Through Op Deter, this perception is changing. Carrying a knife is dangerous, not just to others, but to the carrier.

    “By taking swift and tough action, not only through prosecution and intervention, but also through education, we aim to create the deterrent impact that forms the basis of prevention.”

    Cabinet Member for Community Safety in Milton Keynes, Cllr Lauren Townsend said: “This project is part of a series of work that we’re doing to tackle knife crime and educate young people.

    “Working alongside our partners, we’re able to have early conversations with young people and help prevent them becoming involved in offending.

    “We’ll continue to work hard on making Milton Keynes an even safer place to live by reaching out to people at a point in their life when they’re more likely to engage.”

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