Air ambulance calls to stabbings reach record high across Sussex, Kent and Surrey

Critical knife crime call-outs for the air ambulance are at an all-time high as crime figures in the area continue to surge.

Since 2013, the Air Ambulance Kent, Surrey, Sussex (AAKSS) has responded to more than 400 critical knife crime-related call-outs, according to the charity’s own statistics.

The figures show critical missions related to knife crime reached their highest number between June 2018 and June 2019, with 75 cases across the four counties.

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It mirrors the trend reported by the Herald & Gazette last week that showed knife crime in Sussex had risen by 222 per cent since 2011.

The Air Ambulance Kent Surrey and Sussex. Pic: Dan Jessup

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Responding to the figures, Dr Magnus Nelson, a helicopter emergency medical service consultant with AAKSS, said: “It is concerning that we have seen this rise in our region and we know that as part of our response to this we will continue to work with partners to support not only the immediate care for victims, but our engagement with partners and strategies to look at the longer term reduction in this type of violence.

“Our role in the treatment of the victims of this type of crime recognises the importance of being available 24 hours a day to provide a response region wide. Our teams offer the high acuity clinical interventions sometimes necessary to treat and stabilise patients along with the ability to rapidly transport them to the region’s major trauma centres. 

“These cases are always challenging and the existing ability of our teams to work with the other emergency services to make a positive difference is vital in good clinical outcomes.”

AAKSS’ figures showed an interesting breakdown of the victims of knife crime.

The proportion of female victims rose to its highest level, making up 12 per cent of last year’s total.

The highest number of people who needed critical care were in their 20s, according to the figures, with 35 per cent of call-outs relating to people aged 19-29.

Nine per cent of victims were aged 18 and under, 27 per cent in their thirties, 16 per cent in their 40s, eight per cent in their 60s and three per cent were older than 70.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, crimes in Sussex involving a knife reached their highest level for the year ending September 2019, with 1,113 reported.

Responding to the rise, Sussex Police pointed to units specifically formed to target violent crime – the Violence Reduction Unit and a Tactical Enforcement Unit launched in December to tackle the most prolific offenders.

The REBOOT programme also aims to engage with young people at risk of falling into a pattern of violent or criminal behaviour. The scheme has already helped more than 600 young people, according to Sussex Police.

In October, the force announced plans to recruit 129 new police officers by April 2021, on top of an ongoing four-year project to recruit 250 new officers.

The twice-yearly national campaign, Operation Sceptre, also specifically targets knife crime. Knife amnesties are held for people to hand in knives at police stations all over Sussex, and police use stop and search powers to catch those suspected of carrying a weapon.

Education sessions are also held around the county.