Essex

Children as young as 7 found with knives in Essex

Young person holding a knife
Image caption In Essex, the number of under-18s caught carrying knives nearly trebled between 2014 and 2016

Children aged as young as seven have been caught armed with knives in Essex, a freedom of information request found.

The data also shows the number of under-18s caught carrying knives has almost trebled in the last three years.

In 2014, the figure was 115, but had increased to 332 in 2016. There have also been significant increases in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Gavin McKenna, a former gang member who works with young people, said: "It's worse than I even thought it was."

Essex Police said it took a "zero tolerance approach to the carrying of knives", but the increase in knife crime "reflects a broader national trend".

"We proactively reach out to young people we think could be at risk of carrying knives, working closely with partner charities and organisations and seeing young people face to face to explain the dangers involved," the force said.

Image caption Former gang member Gavin McKenna said he uses his own experiences to advise young people

Mr McKenna works with children and teenagers in Brentwood as part of a scheme called Reach Every Generation.

It aims to talk to young people who might be caught up in gang culture.

"Personal experience plays a massive part in the work I do," said Mr McKenna.

"I'm just trying to make them foresee the future. Their decisions they make today at 15, they'll still have consequences in 15 years' time when they're 30."

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