SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly has expressed concern about the prevalence of knife crime in Northern Ireland after a fatal stabbing in Downpatrick.
Mrs Kelly has written to Justice Minister Naomi Long to ask what steps are being taken to address the issue.
The latest figures from the PSNI show there were 691 crimes involving knives or sharp instruments between September 2020 and September 2021.
There were five homicides, 24 attempted murders, 51 threats to kill, 496 incidents of actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm, 111 robberies and four rapes or sexual assault offences.
Mrs Kelly said:
“Over the years I have highlighted my concerns about knife crime in the North remaining at stubbornly high levels on numerous occasions. Sadly, last week’s tragic murder in Downpatrick has brought the issue back into focus and the issue of knife crime in our communities is once again on the agenda.
“While the number of instances of knife crimes has declined slightly over the past five years, it still remains stubbornly high around the 700 mark. Knives are used in a wide range of crimes from violent acts, threats, robberies and sexual assaults and they often have life-changing impacts for their victims.
“We have seen in other parts of these islands how quickly knife crime can become a scourge and it’s something we can’t allow to become a regular occurrence in our towns and cities. With that in mind, I have contacted Justice Minister Naomi Long in the wake of this week’s murder to express my concerns and to establish what plans she has, if any, to begin to tackle this issue and lower the number of knife crimes recorded across the North each year.
“I think if we are truly going to get to grips with this issue then we need to look at introducing tougher sentences to send a message that knife crime simply won’t be tolerated. We must use every tool at our disposal to prevent incidents like this in future and stop people’s lives and families being ripped apart as a result of these awful crimes.”