Young people buying large knives on Telegram and TikTok, police say

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Young people are using sites such as Telegram and TikTok to buy large knives for use in attacks and intimidation, with some linked to Britain’s drug wars, police said.

Stephen Clayman, national lead for knife crime for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, made it clear on Tuesday that police want tougher action after a 7% year-on-year rise in knife offences, with a 20% rise in knife-point robberies.

Clayman, who is a commander in the Metropolitan police, said there were new trends in the supply of knives, with government and police scrambling to keep up.

He urged social media companies and retailers to help stop young people getting weapons. “Social media companies need to take some responsibility … in limiting access,” he said. “You’ve got algorithms: if I’m searching for knives and retailers, the algorithm will probably show me more.”

He named Meta, Snapchat, TikTok and Telegram as sites used.

Clayman said: “These knives are accessible to young people, there’s no age restriction or verification, they will send to young people.

“We are uncovering more, because whether it’s Snapchat, TikTok or Telegram, they are using these channels and young people are flicking between them very quickly … it’s like any criminal market.”

Of special concern are large Zombie-style knives and machetes. Clayman said a new trend is people buying hundreds of knives and then reselling them, with little or no checks. “They are taking advantage of a mechanism to resell … They think they are being entrepreneurial, actually they are committing an offence and they are causing more harm,” he said.

He added: “Knife crime is moving with the digital age.”

The mother of Ronan Kanda, 16, has called for a ban after her son died after being stabbed through the heart with a sword in 2022 that had been bought online. He was chased through the streets of Wolverhampton by two 17-year-olds armed with a machete and sword, who had mistook him for someone else.

Those involved in the drug trade carry knives to protect themselves from attack or robbery, with large knives preferred to intensify the terrorising effect. Clayman said: “Invariably, whenever we undertake any warrants, and we get into addresses, we will find the drugs but we will also find the stash of weapons … machetes and other weapons.”

Young people are also obtaining knives to protect territory and because they are “scared” and believe it will protect them from attack, he said.

Further crackdowns are being considered, Clayman said, such as a ban on large knives for sale online. “We are always looking at how far we can push this,” he added.

Police have developed a “knife hunter” database, recording the types of knife recovered. It is hoped that with the use of AI it will tell analysts what type of weapons are in circulation.


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