May I take this opportunity to add my good wishes on the anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip? Long may she reign.
To tackle knife crime we are taking action centred on four key strands: the first relates to police enforcement; the second relates to retailers and responsible sales; the third involves tightening the legislation to ensure that the police have the powers that they need; and the fourth is to encourage early intervention so that people do not get the knives in the first place.
My constituents in Yateley woke up to a nightmare after Halloween when they found that knife-wielding yobs had been on a slashing spree, including slashing car tyres and soft-top roofs. Some of them were as young as 12 and from outside my constituency. What is my right hon. Friend doing to ensure that the youngest in society cannot get their hands on knives and go on these armed rampages, terrorising communities? They are putting themselves at risk, too.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comment, and I have huge sympathy with his constituents. It is of course illegal for anyone under 18 to buy a knife, and we are working with retailers to ensure that that becomes the case more and more; we are making sure that that is enforced. We are also working with local communities, and we have a community intervention fund which will work with schools and local groups to ensure that young people are aware of just how dangerous it is to carry knives, for them as well as for their potential victims.
Dan, the beloved son of Lynne Baird, was knifed to death in a brutal attack. He was one of 253 additional victims in the past 12 months, with knife crime rising 15%. Does the Home Secretary not begin to understand that the consequence of having 2,000 fewer police officers in the west midlands is that knife crime, gun crime and violent crime are soaring? The Government are betraying the first duty of any Government, which is to provide safety and security for their citizens.
It is because we recognise that the first duty of this Government is to keep the citizens safe that we have such a comprehensive plan to look at violent and serious violent crime. We recognise that the police need their resources, but it is more than that. It is about early intervention, and about making sure that those knives and guns do not get into the hands of the people who can do such damage. It is also about ensuring that we work with retailers online to ensure that people cannot access knives through those sources.
Knife crime and youth violence are on the increase in Manchester as well. What consideration has the Home Secretary given to some of the tactics that are used in policing what is increasingly being called gang violence, even though often it is not? In particular, what consideration has she given to what is often the overuse of joint enterprise and to threats to life against young people? Such tactics are pushing away from the police the very communities they are seeking to bring on board.
The hon. Lady raises a good point; it is absolutely essential that we give the police the tools that they need to keep people safe, but we must also ensure that they are used in a way that reassures the local community. One of the areas that is often raised with me is the role of stop and search. We know that it is effective when used properly. I am determined to reassure the police and the communities that the police can continue to use stop and search, and should do so, in order to arrest the increase in knife crime, where it is taking place.
A significant proportion of underage knife purchases are made online or by mail order. How on earth can we regulate that? What is to prevent a young person from simply going online and buying a knife?
There are two ways; my hon. Friend makes a good point. We have to work with the communications service providers and internet providers to ensure that it is not as easy to buy knives online. We also have to ensure that we work with the retailers, so that when people order knives, they have to actually go and collect them. That is the legislation that we are going to bring forward, so that people cannot lie about their age. If they order a knife online, they will have to go and collect it.