Labour’s Action Plan to cut knife crime

Keir Starmer and Yvette Cooper with police officers

We need to take back our streets from a rising epidemic of knife crime.

In 2022, 282 people were fatally stabbed. The steepest increases in knife crime are in our towns and suburbs, so this is no longer a problem confined to our cities.

A 15-year-old girl on her way to school in Croydon who never made it to the school gate.

A teenager who died in a hospital car park in Cornwall – yet the charges against his alleged killer were later dropped.

A 16-year-old boy stabbed to death just yards from his home in Wolverhampton.

A 74-year-old man who worked for his local council driving special needs children to school, fatally stabbed while walking his dog near Mosborough in Yorkshire.

And on New Year’s Eve in London, a 16-year-old who gathered with friends to watch the fireworks from Primrose Hill, was pronounced dead before midnight.

In Britain we often pat ourselves on the back that we don’t have America’s gun violence crisis. Yet in plain sight, we are now witnessing our own crisis – an horrific growth in knife crime and stabbings – and not enough is being done to stop it. 

Knife crime affects not just the direct victim, it affects the whole community. It is about the fear of crime as well as the crime itself: the dread of walking home alone in the dark, the belief of a growing number of teenagers that they need to carry a knife to protect themselves; the sense that their community is unsafe. Too often nothing is done when there are signs that a young person is getting into trouble, being groomed by gangs, or lost into a dangerous online world. 

Labour will turn this around. We will give young people real support to achieve their potential and stay on track, but flout that chance, and they’ll feel the full force of the law.”

Keir Starmer MP

Too often when teenagers are caught with knives nothing happens. Too often, there is no action. No support to stop a spiral into even more devastating crime. 

Too often when teenagers say they don’t feel safe, or they are struggling themselves with trauma or abuse, no one listens, no help is provided. 

The Tories have said they’ll act 16 times in the last decade to stop the selling of dangerous knives – yet it is still easier to buy a lethal zombie-style knife online than it is to buy a kitchen knife on the high street.

Knife crime is yet another crushing example of us all paying the price for Tory sticking plaster politics and ultimately their negligence. 

Are we really surprised that if we cut the numbers of neighbourhood police and PCSOs, close down youth clubs, disempower local councils, beat a retreat from the public parks, estates, and high streets, then this is fertile grounds for crime and antisocial behaviour to flourish and criminal gangs fill the void?

Labour’s missions

Take back our streets

Our mission to halve serious crime
Keir Starmer and Yvette Cooper with police officers

The Tories have failed to keep our streets safe

The Tories have failed to keep our streets safe, tackle knife crime and protect young people:

  1. Knife crime is up by 80% since 2015.
  2. 2021/2022 saw the highest number of people killed with a knife for over 70 years. The biggest increase was amongst boys aged 16-17.
  3. In the year to June 2023, there were 3,235 weapons possession offences committed by 10-17 year olds, 21% up on a decade earlier (2,664). It means there are over 60 knife carrying offences involving children every week.
  4. More than a quarter of young people cautioned or convicted of knife possession commit another criminal offence within a year.
  5. Over 200,000 children are vulnerable to serious violence according to analysis from Crest Advisory.
  6. Total arrests have more than halved since 2010 .
  7. Over two million crimes are dropped each year without a suspect being found.
  8. 47% of teens have been a victim or witness of violence in the last 12 months.
  9. There are 10,000 fewer neighbourhood police on our streets than in 2015
  10. Over 90 per cent of crime is going unsolved.

It is time for change.

Labour’s Action Plan to cut knife crime

One of the key planks of Labour’s bold mission to take back our streets is halving knife crime.

Like all of our missions, this will not be solved by one government department or one piece of legislation but by the focused, coordinated, joined up action of all the different actors involved: policing, youth services, mental health providers, schools, tech companies, family support, youth offending teams, courts and the key role played by charities and community organisations providing timely early intervention.

Our plan can be boiled down to two equally important elements: tough on knife crime, tough on the causes of knife crime.

Tough on knife crime

Swift Punishment: We won’t shrug our shoulders when kids are caught with knives, we will put in place swift firm action and stronger enforcement. Meaningless warnings aren’t enough. There have to be consequences for carrying a knife.

Tough on the causes of knife crime

Prevention First: We need to tackle the causes of knife crime early and systematically – preventing young people being drawn into knife crime, targeting those most at risk of getting involved in knife crime and building a package of support to stop them ever picking up a knife.

Labour will bring in new and stronger laws to crack down on dangerous knife sales that the government promised and failed to ban so many times, and on the gangs who wield the knives.

1. Tough consequences for carrying a knife

  • Guaranteed sanctions and serious interventions for young people found carrying knives to end the empty warnings and ‘apology letters’ for knife possession that are currently permitted.
  • Every offender must be referred to a Youth Offending Team and have a mandatory, bespoke action plan to prevent re-offending.
  • Tough new guidance so that there is greater use of serious penalties where appropriate, such as curfews, tagging, or behavioural contracts.
  • Labour will continue to support the use of custody in the most serious cases of knife possession by providing the prison places the Tories failed to deliver and increasing the number of crown prosecutor so that justice is delivered swiftly.

2. Young Futures

  Early intervention to stop young people being drawn into crime

  • A targeted programme in every area to identify the young people most at risk with a package of support tailored to their needs.
  • Youth workers in A&E units, custody centres and communities, and mentors in pupil referral units, to target young people at risk.
  • A national network of youth hubs to bring local services together and deliver support for teenagers.
  • A plan for youth mental health with support in every school and open access hubs in every community with action to tackle mental health waiting lists.

3. Getting knives off our streets

Labour will crackdown on the availability of knives on Britain’s streets

  • An urgent crackdown on the possession and sale of machetes, zombie knives and swords.
  • An end to the unacceptable delays to implementing a full ban on Zombie knives.
  • Closing other loopholes in the Government’s approach to killer knives, including whether further laws are needed on online sales.
  • Demanding tough criminal sanctions on tech executives who allow knife sales on their online marketplaces, such as Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Instagram.
  • A rapid review of online knife sales from the point of purchase through to delivery, in particular to strengthen the ID checks conducted by Royal Mail and Border Force for UK-bound parcels

4. Ending exploitation of young people

Labour will:

  • Introduce a new law on the exploitation of children and young people by criminal gangs, including county lines, creating a new criminal offence of child criminal exploitation.
  • Develop a new serious organised crime strategy to go after the gangs making millions from the exploitation of children and young people in our communities.

5. A new Coalition to End Knife Crime

  • A new cross-Government Coalition to End Knife Crime, bringing together political and community leaders, and others with a role to play in tackling knife crime and keeping young people safe.
  • Alongside Ministers from across Government, the coalition will include community leaders, faith leaders, families of victims of knife violence from across the country, sporting bodies, technology companies, and young people themselves.
  • Meeting quarterly, the coalition will inform policy-making, innovate community-led solutions, and provide input and feedback on government initiatives.
  • With a prominent community voice, the coalition will ensure diverse communities are at the heart of finding solutions and will consult with those groups most involved in tackling knife crime.

Our five-point action plan will be mindful of the legitimate use for knife use, for example in the catering profession and for religious use with our policies focused on those who currently use loopholes for criminal activity.