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Zero underage sales a sign of success for anti-knife campaign

A campaign to clamp down on underage knife sales in Lambeth has seen a dramatic drop in traders willing to sell knives to young people compared to 18 months ago, a recent undercover investigation has suggested.

Anti-knife initiative ‘Lives Not knives’ has been running for more than a year to encourage traders to act responsibly and stop knives getting into the hands of young people.

And a recent undercover operation suggests the campaign is working. Lambeth Council Trading Standards officers working with the police used 15-year-old volunteers over half term last week to see if shops were sticking to the law by challenging the volunteer to produce ID in shops in Streatham and Brixton Town Centre. All of the shops refused to sell the volunteers a knife. In a similar operation run in January 2009, 11 out of 29 shops visited sold the volunteer a knife without questioning their age or asking for ID.

The campaign, which has been running for around 18 months and has seen traders asked to adopt the Lambeth Knife Charter, which pledges them to ask anyone who looks under 21 for ID. Dozens of businesses have been contacted by trading standards officers to make sure they and their staff know the law, and regular ‘test-purchasing’ operations have been run to catch irresponsible traders and a number of prosecutions carried out.

Bernard Conmy from Lambeth Trading Standards, who runs the undercover operations, said: “The fact that not a single shop we visited in our last operation was willing to sell a knife to our underage volunteer is really heartening, and seems to be a clear sign that our Lives not Knives campaign is working.

“Through a combination of working with shops to remind them and their staff of the law via the Lambeth Knife Charter, as well as regular test-purchasing operations, and prosecutions, the message is clearly getting across. There is simply no excuse for someone who is under 18 to be sold a knife. Staff should be asking for photo ID to prove the customer is old enough if there is any doubt. Asking how old a customer is simply not good enough.”

“This won’t stop young people carrying knives, but we can make it hard for people to get hold of them and reduce the number in circulation, which is an important step in the right direction.”

Lives not Knives is a campaign run by Lambeth Council and the Police.

Summary of the latest Test Purchasing Operation three days in the School half term June 2010

Volunteers aged 15 years old tried to buy alcohol, tobacco, or knives throughout the Borough over a three day period.

  • 25 shops were test purchased for alcohol sales resulting in 3 under age sales – 12% sale rate
  • 50 shops were test purchased for cigarette sales resulting in 2 under age sales – 4% sale rate
  • 31 shops were test purchased for knife sales resulting in no under age sales – 0% sale rate
  • over 100 shops were tested, with an overall sale rate of 4.7%
  • pirate DVDs were also found on display for sale at an off licence and confiscated
  • one arrest was made of an illegal immigrant working at an off licence
  • two street pirate DVD sellers were intercepted and their illegal goods confiscated.

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