A 3-week amnesty began today in Northern Ireland, aimed particularly at 11-18 year old boys, to reduce the number of blades out on the streets. This move comes in the light of 1200 crimes committed last year with knives, a rise from 984 the previous year. Similar amnesties are being rolled out across the UK, although the one here is of a shorter duration than the others. The amnesties in England, Scotland and Wales will last for 5 weeks.I dont know how accurately knives can be tested forensically, but it was emphasised on Good Morning Ulster that any knives handed in would not be tested for links to crime. David Hanson also dealt with some tricky questions on how this would work, and which type of knife was seen appropriate for which purpose.
It was an issue raised by Lady Sylvia in Westminster in February, so perhaps this is one area that could attract widespread support.
Knife bins are being established at special sites, and a publicity scheme is being launched. I have to admit to a degree of scepticism as to how it might work, but I hope that it gets results.
In general, reaction to the amnesty appears to be positive, and why shouldn’t it be? There should be no reason for anyone from any party to shirk responsibility on this issue. Anything that can be done to reduce the use of knives as a part of the cultural kit for teenagers should be seen as positive.
Sinn Fein`s Gerry Kelly said an amnesty alone was not enough to tackle Northern Ireland`s knife culture.
The North Belfast MLA said: “While people will obviously welcome any initiative which will remove knives from our streets, I think that wider issues need to be addressed if we are to effectively tackle the growing problem of knives being used.
“Political leaders have a major role to play in tackling issues like sectarianism which have resulted in an increasing number of attacks with knives in recent years. Indeed, three Catholics have been killed in sectarian attacks involving knives in recent years.”