THE number of people Thames Valley Police have arrested for carrying a knife or blade has doubled over the course of five years.

A Freedom of Information request sent to the force by the Oxford Mail revealed that officers arrested 651 people for carrying a knife or ‘bladed article’ in 2017, up from 328 in 2013.

Out of a total of 2,746 arrests from 2013 to June 30 of this year, 664 were in Oxfordshire. Of those, 313 were in Oxford - the second highest figure for an area in the region after Milton Keynes.

The figures have sparked concerns around rising levels of violent crime but the force has put at least some of it down to its own proactivity.

Police spokesman Jack Abell said: “Arrests for these offences are often driven by police proactivity.

“These statistics also represent cases where the reason for arrest was recorded as either possession of a knife blade/sharp pointed article in a public place or on school premises.

“Ultimately they may not have ended up as a recorded crime following investigation - for example, if the person arrested had a reasonable excuse for carrying the item in question.

“Nationally there has been an increase in knife related crime, and this is reflected in the Thames Valley.”

The rising number of arrests is being linked to a general rise in crime - particularly violent crime - both across the country and in the region.

Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council’s lead member for community safety, commended police for their efforts, noting that every knife seized may mean a “life saved and a family’s heartbreak avoided”.

But the councillor expressed concern over rising levels of violence and knife offences on the county’s streets.

He said: “We have to ask ourselves key questions. Why are we seeing more people carrying knives and potentially committing violent crimes?

“Why are seeing violent crime shoot up in the Thames Valley by 13 per cent in the last year, just as we’re seeing a nine per cent rise in overall crime levels across the region?”

Mr Hayes noted that budget constraints and Government cuts for police and other services were enabling violent crime levels to soar, adding: “It’s clear that budget cuts lead to a rise in violent crime, and we need to invest in policing as well as the preventative services which have seen funding slashed.

“We need those preventative services - local councils, education, health, and youth services - to get the funding they need.

“We need a public health approach to deal with violence like you would any other health issue that causes physical harm—stop the spread then reduce the chances of it happening again. We need to strengthen our services to intervene at crucial moments in the life of somebody who, without intervention, may end up carrying a knife and committing violent crime. In the case of young people, that intervention to tackle the root causes of violence will be crucial.”