TACKLING knife crime is one of the biggest issues facing police both at a national level and closer to home.

The use of weapons is no longer an inner city problem, it is widespread, and affecting Colchester and the community who live here.

Just last month, Carl Hopkins, 49, died after being knifed in the back in Colchester town centre while another man was seriously injured after he was stabbed in the same incident.

A 17-year-old boy is facing murder and attempted murder charges - as well as being accused of possession of an offensive weapon - with the attacks believed to be drug related.

Days before, Danny Glass, 30, terrorised people walking around the Hythe and New Town areas of town where - armed with a knife - he robbed a woman of her bag containing her possessions, attempted to rob two men in Kendall Road and held the blade to another man’s throat in Hythe Quay before taking his phone, coins and bank card.

A stash of dangerous knives were found when police searched his home in Haven Road.

He has been warned to expect a lengthy prison term after admitting to a string of offences at Ipswich Crown Court.

And in June last year, a 14-year-old girl slashed a former school friend in the face with a Stanley knife leaving her scarred for life.

The unprovoked attack happened in broad daylight in Vineyard Street car park - an area filled with workers, shoppers and young people who had just left school.

And it is not just anecdotal evidence that knife crime is on the rise - statistics also bear out the claims.

In the 12 months leading up to September 2018 - the most up-to-date statistics where data relating to Colchester is available - there were 142 possession of weapons offences recorded.

That number has trebled in the past two years with the 12 months leading up to September 2016 showing 56 weapons possession incidents recorded.

Statistics also show offences classed as violence with injury are also on the up. Latest statistics show 1,761 incidents recorded in the last 12 months, with the numbers climbing since 2013.

Rising crime levels can be explained by changes to classifications, the borough’s ever growing population and better reporting of incidents.

But this week officers in Colchester are redoubling their efforts to target those who carry knives as part of the national Operation Sceptre campaign.

The Community Policing Team have been out conducting weapon sweeps and intelligence-led patrols and sessions in schools and colleges have been planned to educate young people about the dangers of the lifestyle.

Essex Police’s temporary Assistant Chief Constable Paul Wells explained education was key to preventing violence. He said: “Sadly, we’ve seen an increase in knife nationally and an increase in violent crime here in Essex and I understand this affects how safe people feel.

“However, it’s also important to note that less than eight people in every 1,000 here in Essex will be a victim of a violent crime with injury.

“We know knife and violent crime is closely associated with gangs and drugs but also with domestic abuse.

“Those who are involved in gangs or organised crime carry knives and other weapons because of the threat of violence that hangs over them. Arresting them is not always a deterrent.

“We need to educate our children about whether that’s the kind of life they want to lead – carrying weapons, always looking over their shoulder and being not only at risk of getting hurt but facing the consequences of hurting someone else.

“Tackling knife crime involves more than just enforcement.

“It is a community responsibility, which is why we work with other organisations within the criminal justice system, our community safety partnerships, charities, schools and community groups to try and educate people to prevent knife crime happening in the first place.

“Information is also really key. If you know someone who carries a weapon or have information about drugs or gangs, for example, tell us.

“We can then take action against those people.”

Young people worried about knife crime can find out more at Fearless.org.