Report highlights success in tackling knife crime

Education has been at the forefront of Scotland’s drive to reduce knife-carrying and violent crime among young people

Report highlights success in tackling knife crime

A report analysing 10 years of a national programme designed to deter young people in Scotland from using and carrying a knife has been launched today.

In 2009, the creation of No Knives, Better Lives (NKBL) was a response to the very high incidence of knife crime in Scotland and the high numbers of young people charged with handling an offensive weapon; this has changed markedly over the past decade.

NKBL focuses on youth work – it is largely driven by youth work body YouthLink Scotland, with support from the Scottish government – with the focus on prevention and helping young people to change or challenge behaviour.


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Scotland has adopted a public health approach to tackling violence as advocated by the World Health Organisation, by treating violence as an infection that can be cured. 

Initiatives include the Violence Reduction Unit’s MVP (Mentors in Violence Prevention) programme, which runs in some schools. This trains pupils to talk to peers about the risks and consequences of carrying a knife, what you can do if you know that someone else is doing so, and how to challenge the perception that behaviours like this are the “norm”.

Key statistics from today's report

  • The number of under-18s convicted of handling an offensive weapon has fallen by 85 per cent (from 456 in 2008-09 to 68 in 2017-18).
  • Some 12 per cent of adults thought that people carrying knives was common in their area in 2017-18, down from 22 per cent in 2009-10.
  • Balisong, a play for schools designed to discourage the carrying of knives was seen by 20,000 pupils in 2018-19.
  • In the past five years, 1,332 education practitioners have been trained to deliver NKBL sessions

'Significant reduction' in violence

YouthLink Scotland chief executive Tim Frew said: “We have seen a significant reduction in the recorded incidence of violent crime and possession of offensive weapons in Scotland, particularly among young people.

"While this is good news, it is important not to see our work as complete regarding the issues of knife-carrying, conflict and violence. The cyclical nature of the problem, coupled with the small increase in knife crime prevalence in 2018 means that it is important we do not rest on our laurels.”

Mr Frew added: “A worrying resurgence of knife crime in other parts of the UK, particularly London, indicates that we need to keep working hard to keep our young people safe from the harmful practice of knife-carrying.

"Prevention work must continue. Crucial partnerships between the youth work sector, schools, Police Scotland and other agencies that contribute to local NKBL initiatives need to be sustained and supported to deliver a safer Scotland for our young people.”

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said that, while there had been a “significant” reduction in the number of under-18s convicted of handling an offensive weapon, there remained “much more to do” in tackling knife crime.

You can read the full No Knives, Better Lives report here and also find updates via @NKBLScotland #10YearsOfNKBL

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