POLICE across south Essex have teamed up for a week-long campaign to raise awareness of the tragic effects of knife crime as part of a national operation.

Operation Sceptre, led by the Metropolitan Police, is an operation aimed at stamping out knife crime and cracking down on the supply and access of weapons.

Sergeant Mark McQuade, from Castle Point and Rochford community policing team, told the Echo that Essex Police teams are carrying out searches of parks and fields, searching for knives in bushes.

Police are also holding drop in centres in Rochford police station and Castle Point Council’s offices, as well a stall at today’s Rayleigh Market to raise awareness and encourage people to speak about the dangers of carrying knives.

He said: “We spent the morning with partners at the council searching green spaces, they are common areas for finding bladed articles.

“We started that at around 9.30am and spent an hour and a half searching the spaces.

“On Canvey, we have been surveying adults and asking them what their views are, whether they think they have a problem with knife crime.”

However, some who are very close to victims of knife attacks feel carrying out searches for weapons is not enough in tackling the issue.

Dionne Martin’s brother Daniel Mitchell-Monroe, 37, from Vange, died after he was stabbed outside Iceland in Basildon town centre, defending his niece from Joram Bakumanya in Basildon town centre in November 2016.

The 47-year-old said that Op Sceptre is a “good start” in raising awareness of the effects of knife crime, however, education on the use of weapons needs to be given to children from a much younger age.

She said: “It is a good start for the police, but it is all down to education and changing people’s mindsets on carrying knives.

“I do not have an answer, but it must start with educating younger people.

“Going into schools is the best way to do it as it will show the effects of carrying and using knives to people at a younger age.

“In the case of my loss and speaking on the No Knives in Essex campaign, if I can change one person’s frame of mind and stop them from carrying and using a knife, that is one more life saved.

“We cannot change the world, people will not just wake up tomorrow and think differently about carrying a weapon but making that change in one person is a good start.”

Between June 2016 and June 2017, knife crime increased by 26 per cent in Essex, which is five per cent greater than the national average in the same period.

During last July’s Op Sceptre, police seized a range of weapons from a machete to an iron bar.

A total of 40 people were arrested, 74 retail premises were visited, and officers also visited 50 schools throughout the county.

Sgt McQuade agreed with Mrs Martin, recognising that a key area of society that needs to be educated on knife crime is young people.

He said: “I do not think young people give knife crime too much time, thinking about the behaviour and consequences of having a knife.

“We understand there is an area of our society that carry a knife as protection.

“We are here to support them and give counsel and direct them other partners and professionals about other issues.

“Carrying a knife is a serious offence and using one is an even more serious offence.”

Officers on patrol are stopping at bus stops in Basildon, Southend and Castle Point to speak with and give leaflets to young people about the dangers of carrying a knife.

Andy Prophet, assistant chief constable at Essex Police, also said that Op Sceptre is an attempt to stop young people engaging in drugs and gang violence, which is believed to be a key cause of knife crime.

He said: “Enforcement alone will not prevent more young people becoming involved in this type of crime. For those involved in drugs or gangs the threat of violence is something that hangs over them every day: an arrest does not necessarily act as a deterrent.

“We are committed to steering people away from the knife-carrying culture, and making clear that there is help available to move away from a path that all too often results in prison.”