INCREASED use of stop-and-search powers could help create a 'hostile environment' for criminals in Oxford to halt the spread of knife crime, a city police boss has said.

Thames Valley Police's head of major crime Detective Superintendent Ian Hunter said the controversial tactic could play a key role as officers attempt to stop a national surge in murders being replicated locally.

Statistics have shown that last year was the highest on record for murders since 2007, with 739 recorded in England and Wales compared to 649 the year before.

Read again: Mother of boy stabbed to death in Oxford pleads for witnesses to come forward

Despite this, these types of crime in the Thames Valley have remained steady and Oxford only saw one last year.

However 2018 crime stats released last week showed a rise in Oxford in both violence with injury and possession of weapons - up 18.6 and 8.7 per cent respectively - and DS Hunter said stop-and-search could be used more often to tackle this.

Oxford Mail:

In an exclusive interview with the Oxford Mail yesterday he said: "More murders are sadly being committed with a knife in stabbings so I think how we can try and redress that situation and ensure less people are carrying knives.

"Clearly it's about education but policing has a role to play in that as well.

"This may include an increase in stop and search which of course is sometimes an emotive issue for some.

"But properly targeted and professionally delivered, it can remove knives from public places and can help to disrupt those intent on causing harm."

Read also: Latest results from Oxfordshire's courts

He went on: "Making the Thames Valley a hostile and challenging environment for those who want to commit crime is not something I would apologise for.

"I have always felt, from my personal policing experience, it has a role to play.

"It is far from the only tactic but it is an important tactic.

"Some people might think how else do you remove knives from public places, if you are not using stop-and-search powers? Only the police can do that, nobody else."

Read also: 100 arrested and £130,000 seized in police operation

Stop-and-search has faced criticism in the past because it is said to involve racial profiling and alienate sections of the community.

The tactic has been used far less in the last decade due to declining numbers of officers and changes in policy.

But during last week's drugs operations, TVP performed 156 searches, helping it to make arrests and seize cash, class A drugs and various weapons.

Oxford Mail:

Speaking to the Oxford Mail before he answers questions from the public as part of a Facebook Live event tonight, DS Hunter said the force was still working to solve the murder of 16-year-old Harun Jama who was stabbed to death in Friar's Wharf more than a year ago.

He said: "This has been a difficult investigation from the outset.

"It takes place in an area where there is no direct CCTV coverage, there are no direct witnesses who can identify who a suspect might be and there are a lot of challenges in terms of who may have been in the area at that time and why they might not want to come forward.

"Harun's family won't ever forget what has happened and nor will we.

"Our message is the same; we think there are people out there that have more information than has been shared with us.

"We understand there are many reasons why people may not want to speak to police but there is a lot of support we can provide to witnesses.

"We have a team that is still working on it and that will be constantly kept under review."

Read again: Tax hike approved but more police stations may close

A council tax rise, approved in last week's police budget, will see more money going into major crime investigations but DS Hunter said it was 'too early to say' how these extra resources will be used.

He said: "Any additional resources into investigations is obviously welcome.

"It was only confirmed last week and we wouldn't want to rush into any decisions.

"There will be a lot of consideration and thought that goes into the best way of using those resources.

"It could go into our other areas of serious organised crime or economic crime but it would be very early to say."

He also defended officers from accusations that they increasingly fail to turn up at crime scenes, saying it was most often due to 'increased demand'.

He said: "Our officers want to respond, protect and prevent offences and arrest people doing bad things.

"Sometimes demand is so high, they can't be where they need to be when they want to be there. Most often that's because they are needed somewhere else more."