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May 14, 2024

· Government to invest further £3.5 million to develop knife detection technologies

· Met Police given £547,863 for more live facial recognition mobile units

· Move marks national policing intensification week for knife crime, Sceptre

The government will invest a further £4 million to tackle the scourge of knife crime, the Home Secretary announced today.

The investment will see £3.5 million go into the research, development and evaluation of new technologies which can detect knives carried from a distance and hand-held or body-worn systems which can be operated by individual officers.  

The government has also confirmed funding the refit and redeployment of four vans into new mobile live facial recognition (LFR) units for the Met to bolster efforts to address knife crime, which is rising in the capital. This is part of wider funding which aims to tackle serious violence through hotspot policing.  

The investment comes during Sceptre, the national policing intensification week for knife crime led by National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and is just one of a package of measures introduced over the last year to tackle serious violence.

Home Secretary, James Cleverly said:

“Knife crime ruins lives and recent tragedies show there’s a lot more to be done to take these dangerous weapons off our streets.

“That’s why we’re taking a joint approach and announcing further measures to tackle these heinous crimes.

“No technology can replace the presence of officers on our streets, but as criminals develop new strategies towards crime, so must we.

“New technologies are already revolutionising how we fight crime and we are going even further to give police the solutions they need to keep us safe.”

LFR mobile units are used in busy areas to check individuals against a select list of persons who are wanted by the police or the courts. The effectiveness of these units is well proven. In December, deployments of live facial recognition in Croydon led to 15 arrests for offences including rape, robbery, fraud, grievous bodily harm and possession of class A drugs.  

These units have clear safeguards in place. The use of LFR is governed by data protection, equality, and human rights laws. It can only be used for a policing purpose, where necessary, proportionate, and fair. Images taken by the tech are deleted instantly if they do not match the list of criminals held by police. All deployments are also targeted, intelligence-led, time-bound, and geographically limited. Before a deployment, the police will inform the public where they intend to use the technology and where they can obtain more information on its use.  

Commander Clayman, national knife crime lead at NPCC said:

“Tackling knife crime requires a range of tactics working with our partner organisations and understanding where policing can best add value.

“We welcome today’s announcement of additional investment in knife detection technology which is one of the many tools we use to keep our communities safe.”

Laws on knife crime in England and Wales are already among the toughest in the world and this government is going even further. Laws on dangerous objects are kept under constant review and new evidence has led to the banning of zombie knives in 2016, cyclone knives in 2019, and earlier this year we announced the ban on zombie-style knives and machetes which will come into effect this summer. It is already illegal to carry a knife in public without reasonable excuse.  

To tackle the root causes of violence, we have funded 20 Violence Reduction Units which bring together law enforcement and local partners to tackle serious violence across England and Wales. These units have reached over 271,000 vulnerable young people in their fourth year of funding alone, through early intervention programmes to help protect them from serious violence.  

Recent independent evaluation has shown that the government’s Violence Reduction Units, in combination with hotspot policing patrols, have prevented an estimated 3,220 hospital admissions for violent injury since 2019 in areas where the programme operates.

This investment builds on significant work already delivered by the Home Office to develop innovative knife detection technologies, in collaboration with industry and partners such as the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, and the Defence and Security Accelerator.

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