THE NUMBER of young children being stopped on suspicion of carrying a weapon has rocketed over the past five years.

We can reveal, using exclusive data obtained by a Freedom of Information request, that from April 1, 2019, to February 5, 31 under-18s were stopped in Oxford – 14 of those under the age of 14.

This is compared to 2015, when only one child aged 13 or 14 was stopped in the city suspected of carrying a blade, knife or gun.

The latest figures also reveal that from May 2019 to April 2020, 181 people were found reportedly in possession of a weapon.

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This is a dramatic rise of 27.5 per cent compared to the year before, when only 142 incidents of that nature were filed by police.

In April alone, 11 people – who could be any age – were caught in possession of a weapon in Oxford.

But the worrying data revealed today shows that younger children are being stopped every year.

In 2014/15, 23 children were stopped by police officers who suspected they were carrying a weapon. Of those, 13 children were 17 year-olds.

Oxford Mail:

A year later, in 2015/16, 22 children were stopped, with 15 of them being aged 17.

But fast forward two years to 2017/18, just five of the 22 youngsters stopped were 17.

Nine were 13 or 14 and eight were 15 or 16.

In 2018/19 the number of 17 year-olds stopped fell again, with only two being questioned by police.

Worryingly, two children aged just 10-12 were stopped, along with five youngsters aged 13-14 and nine aged 15-16.

In the most recent data available, the 10 months leading up to February this year, three children stopped by police were aged 10-12.

Eleven were 13-14, and nine were aged 15-16.

Last summer, councillors called for the statistics to be ‘taken more seriously’ and speculated that youngsters were carrying knives and blades ‘to feel safe’.

Oxford Mail:

Now Mohammed Altaf-Khan, an Oxford City councillor who is responsible for building a safer city, said more needed to be done in schools and outside the classroom so that youngsters can be made aware of the real consequences of carrying weapons and be influenced into making better decisions.

He said: “More has got to be done with children to stop this. Education is needed and it is the key.

“Lessons, sports groups and things that get children off the streets need to be funded. They need to be talking about it.

“Oxford is a safe place to live. Compared to other areas in the Thames Valley, general crime isn’t something to worry about, but this is worrying.”

Last year, Thames Valley Police made knife amnesty bins a permanent feature at police stations after hundreds of weapons were dropped in anonymously.

The bins give people the opportunity to hand over knives and blades with no questions asked.

Police also carry out spot checks at supermarkets to see if they would sell weapons over the counter to under 18s without ID.

Last year the force also set up a training scheme for teachers – telling them the signs to spot when somebody is recruited into a gang.