Staff at four shops in Rossendale sold knives to a child aged 14 in a test purchase operation run by Lancashire Police this week.

On Tuesday, May 14, Lancashire Police conducted a test purchase operation in Rossendale where they used a 14-year-old volunteer to see if she would be sold knives.

Four out of eight shops that failed were located on Deardengate, Haslingden, selling items such as a 'trimming knife' to the tester.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Lauren Manning, the Senior Trading Standards Officer at Lancashire County Council, said: "It is really positive to see four businesses asking for identification and challenging an underage person and then refusing to sell them a knife.

"But unfortunately we did have four shops that sold a knife to a 14-year-old. They have been spoken to and will receive a further follow-up visit, information, advice and a warning from Trading Standards, and they will be re-tested in the future, which could result in prosecution if they were to fail again.

"If members of the public are aware of any businesses that may be selling knives to young people they can report them to the police or Trading Standards via the citizens advice consumer service, and we ask them to be vigilant and make sure to report these concerns."

Figures obtained from a Freedom of Information request submitted to Lancashire Police earlier this year 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-19 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.

Mick Johnson, the Serious Violence and Knife Crime Reduction Sergeant for Lancashire Police, said: "It is hard to say whether these statistics are due to social media, or whether people are getting better at reporting it.

"It is hard to say why that figure has risen, as we are doing a lot of work on education and prevention, but social media is a prevalent reason why people are becoming more aware of knife crime.

"I think Lancashire is doing well in tackling knife crime compared to other parts of the country, only two per cent of our crime is weapon related which nationally makes us very good.

"We hope that the education over the years has worked, but we can never guarantee these tests will result in all passes. It's all about education and engagement and that people need to understand they don't need to carry these knives or weapons and when they carry these weapons, they are more likely to be hurt themselves."

Lancashire Telegraph:

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.

The test ran by Lancashire Police was part of Operation Sceptre, a week of intensified activity to tackle and prevent knife crime taking place from Monday, May 13, to Sunday, May 19.

Operation Sceptre intensification weeks are a chance for all police forces in the country to demonstrate collective activity to remove knives from communities, guided by the National Police Chiefs' Council.

Lancashire County Councillor, Michael Green, said: "The valuable intelligence from the public is really important to us and gives us an opportunity to target particular businesses that might be flouting the law or potentially harming the health of young people.

"We are working in partnership with district councils and the police to tackle these issues. We get information out in a written format and on social media to get to young people, their families and schools about the dangers of knife crime and other problems such as illicit tobacco, vaping products and alcohol.

"These shops need to follow the law as it is very clear, you do not sell these products to someone under the age of 18, and if you're not sure about someone's age or someone does not look over 18 there is a 'Check 25' where they should be checking for ID before they make any sale at all.

"I'm a firm supporter of businesses in Lancashire, I want businesses to be successful but I don't want businesses to be successful on the back of taking a risk on the health and well being of young people and when they break the law, we will come down on them."