Knife crime across East Lancashire shot up during the pandemic and is now at its highest level since 2019.

Figures obtained from a Freedom of Information request submitted to Lancashire Police show that across East Lancashire in 2019, the total number of bladed article offences recorded by the force was 165.

This figure catapulted to 219 during the Covid era in 2020, before recorded bladed article offences dropped back to pre-pandemic levels of 168 in 2021.

However, the data has revealed that since emerging from lockdown days, the number of bladed article offences recorded by the police has risen dramatically, shooting back up to 219 in 2022, and then rising even further to 234 across East Lancashire last year.

In Blackburn with Darwen, recorded bladed article offences sat at 48 in 2019. This figure rose to 78 in 2020, dropped to 62 in 2021, and then rose to 66 by 2023.

Lancashire police have recorded a total of 318 bladed article offences in borough in the last five years.

Of those offenders arrested, 272 were charged with the original offence, with 46 being charged with an alternative offence.

READ MORE: New figures reveal sharp rise in knife crime across Lancashire

In Burnley in the last five years, police have recorded 259 bladed article offences, with 222 charges for that offence brought, and 37 of the offenders being charged with an alternative.

Bladed article offences in Burnley rose from 49 in 2019, to 61 in 2020, then went back down to 47 in 2021 but rose to 51 by 2023.

Lancashire Telegraph: A knife bin installed on Union Street, Accrington and some of the knives handed in during a recent police operation in 2022A knife bin installed on Union Street, Accrington and some of the knives handed in during a recent police operation in 2022 (Image: Lancs Police)

A total of 163 bladed article offences have been recorded by police in Hyndburn since 2019, with 46 of those in 2023, compared to 26 in 2019.

One hundred and thirty-nine offenders were charged with the original offence with 24 charged with an alternative.

Pendle is the area that has seen the biggest rise in knife crime, as 21 offences were recorded by police in 2019, rising to 43 in 2023.

A total of 150 bladed article offences have been recorded by police in the borough in the last five years, almost a third of which were in 2023.

READ MORE: County sees increase in knife and gun crime

Meanwhile, in the Ribble Valley, knife crime offences have doubled since 2019, with just four recorded in that year.

This number actually remained the same throughout 2020 when Covid was prevalent, dropped to three in 2021, but shot up to 14 in 2022, before dropping back to eight in 2023.

A total of 33 bladed article offences have been recorded in the Ribble Valley in the last five years.

Finally, in Rossendale, 81 such offences have been recorded by police since 2019 - 17 in 2019; 14 in 2020; 16 in 2021; 21 in 2022; and 20 in 2023.

Lancashire Telegraph: Weapons handed in at police stations in East Lancashire on the first day of a knife amnesty in 2019Weapons handed in at police stations in East Lancashire on the first day of a knife amnesty in 2019 (Image: Lancs Police)

In February this year, Ministry of Justice figures revealed that more than two-thirds of cautions or convictions for knife crime in Lancashire were handed to first-time offenders.

Anti-knife crime charity the Ben Kinsella Trust said the high proportion of first time offenders was a "red flag", showing more investment into preventative measures is needed.

The figures showed that 360 first-time knife crime offenders in Lancashire went through the criminal justice system in the year ending September 2023.

They accounted for 69 per cent of the total 519 criminals found guilty of knife and offensive weapon offences – in line with the year before.

Patrick Green, chief executive of the Ben Kinsella Trust, said the high rate of first-time offenders reflects a need for "urgent action and a shift in focus".

He added: "While all knife crime is unacceptable, the high proportion of first-time offenders is a red flag. It exposes a cycle where people are often drawn into violence and face potentially life-altering consequences.

"This is not just a criminal justice issue, but a societal one demanding a multifaceted response."

Lancashire Telegraph: Workshop representatives from Rock FM, Lancashire Police and Nest Lancashire at the Knife Angel in 2021Workshop representatives from Rock FM, Lancashire Police and Nest Lancashire at the Knife Angel in 2021 (Image: LVRN)

A Home Office spokesperson said the number of hospital admissions for young people with serious knife injuries has fallen in recent years, but added more needs to be done to "address the root causes of this violence".

They said: "We have banned zombie and cyclone knives and are going further to stop more zombie-style machetes from being used on our streets.

"We are also investing a further £200 million into the Youth Endowment Fund, and our Violence Reduction units, in combination with Grip hotspot policing patrols, have prevented an estimated 3,220 hospital admissions for violent injuries since 2019."

The Lancashire Violence Reduction Network works in trying to reduce the number of knife crime offences across the county, however it is apparent from these figures that more needs to be done.

In November 2021 the Knife Angel, created by Alfie Bradley in collaboration with the British Ironwork Centre, visited Lancashire where it was on display outside Blackburn Cathedral.

The giant 27ft sculpture, made of more than 100,000 seized and surrendered knives, was built to inspire change, but instead of falling, knife crime has risen, if the FOI figures are anything to go by.

Since 2021, Lancashire Police has received increased equipment and funding to put more officers on the streets to tackle knife crime.

This had led to a boost in existing and new activity such as knife arches and wands which are being used by officers at targeted days, times and locations to find and remove knives from people who are carrying them.

Test purchasing is also being carried out by the trading standards team and police officers to ensure shops are selling knives lawfully.

READ MORE: Machete, samurai sword and metal spoon among items deposited in Burnley's knife bin

Additionally, 16 new knife bins have been installed throughout Lancashire, giving communities a safe place to dispose of unwanted knives, while increased stop and search and knife sweep activity is also taking place.

Working with the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, the Lancashire Violence Reduction Network has also commissioned 11 community groups and third sector organisations for projects that help to tackle knife crime.

These projects range from education in schools and colleges to peer mentoring, a boxing club, youth programmes, and a street-based youth and community project working in known hotspots.

Lancashire Telegraph: Knives surrendered in Burnley's knife bin in 2021Knives surrendered in Burnley's knife bin in 2021 (Image: Lancs Police)

Last month, the Lancashire Violence Reduction Network launched an East Lancashire partnership group to help support young people and tackle serious violence. 

Organisations joined forces to help fill in the gaps when crimes are not reported to the police and therefore improve public safety with community insight.

READ MORE: Operation Sceptre has been launched in Lancashire this week

Last November, 523 knives were recovered throughout East Lancashire as part of Operation Sceptre, a national week-long initiative to tackle knife crime.

Lancashire Police worked with the Lancashire Violence Reduction Network, and other partner agencies, to carry out a range of activities across the division to target those who carry dangerous weapons, raise awareness of the consequences of carrying a weapon, and engage with retailers who sell bladed articles.

Officers emptied the four knife bins dotted across East Lancashire and recovered 523 knives. Weapons included swords, cleavers and a variety of knives.

At the time, Sergeant Mick Johnson, from Lancashire’s Violence Reduction Network said: “Op Sceptre week has seen some really positive results, with lots of knives and other weapons being taken off our streets.

“Our partnership work has played a crucial role in getting our knife crime message out there and will continue to do so.

“However, the work doesn’t stop there, we all have a part to play in preventing knife crime. I would encourage anyone who you think may be carrying a knife to visit one of our knife bins to surrender any weapons safely."

Lancashire Police and the Lancashire Violence Reduction Network have been contacted for further comment.

You can find your local knife surrender bins at:

  • Waterfoot Police Station, Bacup Road, BB4 7JA
  • Calico Homes, Croft Street, Burnley, BB11 ED
  • Darwen Police Station, Union Street, BB3 0DA
  • Blackburn Road, Accrington (Bus Station)

If you have any information about knife crime in your area, call 101 or report anonymously through the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.