How do we solve knife crime?

Work with offenders on a new problem solving guide from the College of Policing and the NPCC

As readers will know, knife crime is a persistent and high profile crime with offences rising year on year between 2014 and 2020. The College of Policing and National Police Chief’s Council have just launched a new problem solving guide to address the issue.

A four stage approach 

Problem solving is a structured approach for tackling persistent offences and this guide adopts the four-stage approach known as SARA. The first stage is the identification (or scanning) of recurring problems that affect the community and which the police are expected to handle. Second is a detailed analysis to uncover what might be causing the problem and what might be done to reduce it. Third is the implementation of tailored responses based on that analysis and fourth is an assessment of whether the problem has reduced because of the implemented responses.

Problem solving requires the police to:

  • conduct systematic inquiries into the nature and patterns of problems
  • prioritise prevention
  • work with partners
  • favour responses that do not rely solely on the criminal justice system
  • evaluate whether what they have done has had the desired effect

The document provides detailed guidance on how to apply the SARA model to knife crime on a local basis:

Scanning is about clearly defining your local knife crime problem. This section describes the sources of data and intelligence that can be used to better understand the trends and patterns in your local knife crime problem.

Analysis is about working out why your knife crime problem persists. This section outlines some critical questions to ask of available data, and describes how to use data to better tailor and target interventions.

Response is about designing and delivering interventions aimed at reducing knife crime. This section reviews the research evidence associated with common knife crime interventions. It also presents a framework to help work out whether particular interventions might be relevant to tackling your own local knife crime problem.

Assessment is about learning lessons and driving improvement. This section deals with how you measure the effectiveness of your knife crime interventions. It sets out principles for good evaluation and what you can do to know if your local knife crime problem has changed as a result of your chosen activities.

A practical guide

The document is very much a practical guide which includes step-by-step approaches to each of the four stages with helpful checklists along the way.

There is detailed advice on how to define a specific knife crime problem, identify patterns and get the right range of data and intelligence sources.

The analysis stage relies heavily on a “problem analysis triangle” which provides readers with a framework to break down a specific knife crime problem with the aim of working out which elements are most open to intervention. The approach highlights that offences need more than just offenders, which means that it’s possible to reduce knife crime even when influencing offenders is difficult or impractical. For example, just as offenders can be discouraged from carrying knives by personal appeals from their loved ones (the offender ‘handlers’ in the problem analysis triangle), it’s also possible to prevent knife crime by improving the management of places at which knife crimes are most likely to happen, or to prevent injury by better protecting those most likely to be victims. It’s often recognised that you can’t arrest your way out of many crime problems – the problem analysis triangle is a tool to help identify alternative ways to prevent crime.

The guide concludes with a range of helpful resources, both written material and online materials relating both to knife crime and the problem solving approach.

Interested readers can access the full guide here.