Knife crime in Lancashire has increased by more than a third in the past four years, new figures reveal.
The statistics show a worrying upward spiral of increasingly violent offences - with hundreds of instances every year.
Police say tackling knife crime is a key priority but victims and their family insisted a cultural shift is needed to reduce the trend.
Lancashire Police investigated 867 offences involving a knife or a sharp weapon between April 2017 and March 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics.
That is a 34 per cent increase since 2013-14, when there were 645 cases, and a six per cent rise over the last year.
There are 58 knife offences per 100,000 people in Lancashire, lower than the national average of 69 per 100,000.
In 2017-18, Lancashire Constabulary recorded 109 cases where a firearm was used - five fewer than the previous year.
Last week a 14-year-old boy Blackpool boy appeared in court accused of stabbing his former friend in the chest following a confrontation.
The young defendant, from South Shore, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is charged with wounding a 13-year-old boy, who was described as once a friend of his, with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm. He is also accused of possessing a knife as an offensive weapon.
The attack is alleged to have taken place after a gang of nine teenagers threw eggs at an address in Blackpool and were then confronted by a group of four.
In 2016 two brothers were been jailed for a “ferocious” knife attack at a music festival in Blackpool.
Luke Sandlan, 27, and 21-year-old Elliott, from Greater Manchester, pleaded guilty to assaulting the man at the Pier Jam event in September.
The 23-year-old victim suffered a cardiac arrest after being stabbed 14 times but survived the attack.
Luke Sandlan was jailed for 11 years, and his brother was given a seven-and-a-half year sentence.
Passing sentence, Judge Mark Brown QC described the incident as a “sustained and ferocious assault”.
The brothers had bought the knife in a shop in Blackpool earlier in the day, the court was told.
Chief Inspector Damian Kitchen, of Lancashire Police, said: “Lancashire Constabulary has a zero tolerance policy toward possession of knives in public, and I want to reassure residents that we take any report of knife crime extremely seriously.
“Where we have had information or intelligence about people carrying weapons of any description we have quickly put robust measures in place. For example, following reports in some areas of Lancashire recently we have swiftly put Section 60 ‘Stop and Search’ powers in place, resulting in weapons being seized and those involved being arrested. Prevention is always the most effective way of dealing with any kind of violent crime, and this is reflected in the investment we and the Police and Crime Commissioner have committed to making in our Neighbourhood Target Teams and Community Safety Staff, with a focus on early intervention.
“We have also run several successful knife surrenders across the county, and will be taking part in a national week of action - Operation Sceptre - next month.
“For context, it should be noted that ‘knife crime’ includes offences where any pointed or sharp object has been used, so for example a broken bottle falls into this category, so it is not as simple as a rise in knives being carried.
“In addition, there has been a national rise in all crime categories, but we continue to see that the rise in Lancashire is lower.
“However, we will continue to use all appropriate powers available to us to keep communities safe and we would ask people to be vigilant and to provide us with information about knife crime if they believe it is happening in their area.
“If you do have information about the possession of knives or offensive weapons or criminal activity relating to this type of crime, you can make a report online via the Lancashire Constabulary website.
“You can also anonymously report information to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Rachel Hanley, chair of Lancashire Police Federation, said: “The rise in knife crime is a very worrying and serious issue, and needs to be tackled head on by the Government.
“We cannot allow crime to keep rising, especially in areas such as this. Lancashire has lost over 800 police officers since 2010 and there is no doubt that our proactive a capability has been seriously reduced. Policing needs serious investment and it needs it quickly, for the benefit and safety of our communities.”
Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw added: “I fully support Lancashire Constabulary in tackling knife crime as a key priority and know the work officers do around the clock, alongside partners, acting on intelligence to help tackle crime and reoffending across the county.
“Knives are deadly weapons and time and again we see the tragic impact on people’s lives as a consequence of them being used.
“I’m committed to making our neighbourhoods safer and regularly support campaigns such as the knife surrenders which remove dangerous knives from our streets.”
The majority of knife crime in Lancashire was for many years blamed on drug wars and gang conflict - but it no longer appears to be the sole connection.
British Transport Police is echoing the trend with its own figures showing knife crime on Britain’s railways has more than tripled in the past three years.
New plans were recently announced to tackle the country’s knife-crime epidemic including increased action against traders who sell knives to children such as more money to help Trading Standards prosecute retailers who repeatedly sell blades to underage children. At present underage knife sales purchases are carried out by police in Lancashire.
The Government also wants to introduce Knife Crime Prevention Orders - similar to an ASBO - that can be given to people aged 12 or over who police believe is carrying a knife, are habitual knife carriers or are previously convicted of a knife-related offence - with the aim of stopping vulnerable young people from becoming involved in knife possession and knife crime.
But the Association of YOT Managers says in reality it believes the civil orders “is likely to fast track children into custody” and pointed out children carrying knives and other weapons regularly report that they do so because they are fearful of their own safety.
It said balancing this against this the possible consequence of breaching an order is unlikely to deter them from ‘defending’ themselves.
Instead it called for more educational programmes.
Stuart Maddock, who works for new anti bullying charity Safety Guide Foundation, agrees education is the way forward.
He says: “We can’t stop everyone of every age having access to knives, a child can grab one from a kitchen drawer - but we can educate them about the dangers.
“Children have different reasons for carrying knives and not all are planning to use them. One boy we worked with was carrying a knife for protection - his dad had been stabbed to death the previous year.”
The 39-year-old admits as a youngster he was bullied and close to becoming involved with a gang, but managed to turn his life around.
The organisation has published a million educational leaflets for schools across the UK and have been into schools to do talks, including Corpus Christi in Frenchwood.
The charity has been supported by former professional boxer Robin Reid, who previously held the WBC super-middleweight title and competed in the Olympics in 1992.
l The NSPCC has a gangs helpline which is free, anonymous and available 24/7. If you’re worried about you or a friends involvement in a gang, call 0808 800 5000 or visit their website.
‘The world’s gone mad’
Few people know the true heartache behind the reality of knife crime more than Tracey Highton.
Four years ago her 18-year-old son, Jon-Jo (pictured), died from a deep neck wound after being attacked with weapons including a samurai sword, an axe and knives, on St Stephen’s Road, Deepdale, in August 2015.
The tearful mum spoke to highlight the devastating and ongoing impact knife crime has had for her family after the figures were revealed.
She said: “I hoped people would learn from Jon-Jo’s death but they haven’t. Maybe telling my story will drive it home to people who carry knives. It’s so sad because every time I turn on the TV it’s happening again to someone else and it just brings it all back - it’s just horrible.”
“It’s happening because they are not doing anything - sometimes people are not even going to prison for knife offences. There is no deterrent. I read the other day a 14 year old is charged with stabbing someone in Blackpool - the world’s gone mad.
“And it isn’t just limited to gangs. The impact of what happened affects me every day, until I die I’m never going to be right.
“But we have to look at why people are carrying them, why don’t they feel safe. They don’t realise the danger. We need tougher laws to make them think twice about carrying knives. toughening up the penalties would make them think twice. And we need to look at where they are getting them from - the people who supply things like machetes - either on the internet or in shops - to our children should be held to account as well.
“When they kill that person, they don’t just kill that person, they kill everyone one else around them. These kids are not fighting with their fists anymore, it’s scary.
“What will it be like in another year? I think a lack of discipline is a massive issue - teachers aren’t allowed to properly discipline children - the do-gooder attitude has gone too far.”