AN alarming rise in knife crime has dominated the national headlines in recent weeks.

A man killed last Thursday in London, named by police as 26-year-old David Martinez, was the 19th person to be stabbed to death in the capital this year.

The worrying trend has led to Northumbria Police taking action – but thankfully, knife crime remains uncommon in both the Tyne Valley and the Northumbria Police area as a whole.

Indeed, there hasn’t been a murder in the district since 2011, when the death of Judith Richardson in Hexham shocked the region.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the force saw 47,894 crimes categorised as violence against the person committed in 2018 up to September – up 25 per cent from 38,467 for the same period in 2017.

However, the same statistics show that just two per cent of those offences involved a knife - compared to six per cent nationally.

Despite this, Northumbria Police are still taking the issue very seriously.

On Monday, Northumbria joined all of the 43 other police forces in the country in a week long operation against knife crime.

Operation Sceptre, which runs until Sunday, will see officers engaging with young people through schools and clubs.

Community officers will be visiting schools and youth groups to highlight the support services that are available.

Shops will also be in the spotlight, with volunteers attempting to buy blades to see if the sale of knives to anyone under 18 is restricted.

Retailers found to be breaking the rule could be hit with a £5,000 fine, up to six months in prison, or both.

The operation will also see increased police visibility, with officers patrolling knife crime hotspots, and an increase in intelligence led stop and search.

The operation comes after eight police chief and crime commissioners, including Northumbria’s Vera Baird, along with the London Mayor sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Theresa May last week.

The letter warning that a “broken” school exclusion system was linked to the surge in knife crime, with excluded children the most likely to be involved in knife crime.

The letter said: “Clearly, the way the education system deals with excluded young people is broken.

“It cannot be right that so many of those who have committed offences have been excluded from school or were outside of mainstream education.

“That is why the time has come to act urgently. In the first instance, local authorities need powers and responsibilities over all school exclusions.”

Teacher’s unions responded by saying more funding was needed to help vulnerable pupils, and argued that authorities must go “much further than laying the blame at the door of school exclusions” to tackle knife crime.

However, the North-East has the lowest rates of school exclusion in the country, and Tynedale’s schools fair particularly well. Ponteland High School’s fixed term exclusion rate sits at 20-25 a year, from a county-wide figure of 4,514 in 2017/18.

All four high schools in the district – Ponteland, Hexham, Haydon Bridge, and Prudhoe – were contacted regarding the issue of knife crime. Prudhoe headteacher Annmarie Moore said the school did not have an issue with knife crime. The other three schools did not respond.