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Cadets challenge under age knife sales in the City for the first time

The City of London Police have been working with local volunteer police cadets to conduct age-related test purchases for the sale of knives for the first time in the City.

At the end of October six cadets under the age of 18 carried out a
mystery shopper exercise in eight stores in the Square Mile.

The retailers had never previously been tested on whether they are complying with the law and challenging young people who are trying to buy a knife about their age. 

Knife crime rise causes worry

Operation Darwen, run jointly with Trading Standards, community policing and the volunteer police cadets, is a initiative aimed at reassuring the local youth community.

While knife crime statistics in the Square Mile are far below the national average, reports show that young people often don't distinguish between different force areas and therefore this creates a disproportionate fear of knife crime.


Many of our cadets told us that the recently reported 20% rise in knife crime this year made them feel more vulnerable.

Two retailers fall foul of the law

The operation concluded that the majority of City retailers do comply with the law around the sale of knives and perform age checks at the point of sale. However a very small number needed to tighten up their protocols as two retailers sold knives to underage cadets.


The two retailers who sold the knives will be fully investigated by the City of London Corporation’s Trading Standards Department and a decision will be made on any enforcement action that needs to be taken.   

Cadet Natalia, aged 15, managed to buy a kitchen knife from a major chain. She said of the experience: “I was very surprised how easy it was to buy a knife and leave the shop without being challenged.”

Working with young people to tackle knife crime


While there are a number of ways that people can access knives, ensuring retailers are sticking to the law is an easy and effective way of keeping weapons off the street and, more importantly, out of the hands of young and vulnerable people.


PC Sharon Herbert from the City of London community policing team said:

The recent exercise should show the local community we are working hard to keep them safe and reduce knife crime in the area. It is encouraging the majority of retailers challenged our under-age cadets and that these young people were unable to go through with their purchase.

The City of London Police, alongside our partner agencies, work hard to create meaningful relationships with young people through activities such as this test purchase. Its important for us to show we are listening to these individuals who are worried about knife crime. By having young people actively involved in our work, it helps make them feel part of positive change.

Steve Playle, City of London Corporation Trading Standards Manager, said:


“There are serious problems with knife crime involving young people across the whole of London, so we decided to carry out selected checks on retailers in the Square Mile to complement the work being carried out by Trading Standards colleagues in other boroughs.  We wrote to businesses to advise them about their responsibilities in preventing the sale of knives to under 18s and we followed up the letters with some test purchasing. 


“Although there were two businesses which sold a knife to our volunteer, six businesses did the right thing and correctly refused the sale.  Those which sold are now being investigated further and a decision will be made on any enforcement action that needs to be taken.


“In the meantime, anyone with information about City retailers illegally selling any age restricted products to young people is urged to report it by calling 0345 404 0506”.   

Empowering young people

The City of London volunteer police cadets (VPC) is a uniformed voluntary organisation for young people living in the City and surrounding boroughs.

The scheme provides young people with the chance to work with a core team of police officers and police staff - supporting them at public events, delivering crime prevention advice and getting involved in fundraising events and local community problem solving operations.

We also run a Youth Independent Advisory Group (YIAG) which aims to encourage local young people to have their say on how we can improve more widely the quality of the policing service we deliver and to improve trust and reassurance within our community.

The group also gives us advice on issues that affect young people, for example after a serious crime or incident, and consult with us on plans and policies that might impact on youth culture, offering a new way in which to make a difference to how young communities are policed.

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