HUNDREDS of criminals were sentenced or cautioned for knife and weapon offences in Dorset in the year to March – a record high.

Officers today said they were committed to tackling knife crime in the county - but insisted the number of knife offences in Dorset remained the lowest compared to other similar forces nationally.

Latest Ministry of Justice figures reveal that there were 241 knife and weapon crimes in Dorset which resulted in sentencing or a caution from March 2019 to March 2020. This is the highest number in the county since current records began in 2010.

This figure includes possession of, or threatening with, a knife or another weapon, but do not include all offences, such as murder or assault.

The most recent figures from Dorset Police showed an increase of 3.9 per cent, up 10 crimes from the previous year. The national average was a rise of seven per cent.

The largest decrease in the last year was in Weymouth, where there was a 43 per cent drop in incidents, with 35 less crimes.

Temporary Chief Superintendent Caroline Naughton, of Dorset Police, said: “In Dorset we do not have the extent of knife crime reported in some major metropolitan areas, we were shown to have the lowest rate of offences when compared with similar Forces.

“However, we are not complacent and remain committed to doing all we can to tackle knife crime in our county.

“While incidents involving threats made with knives have risen and that is a concern, thankfully there has been a decrease in incidents that have resulted in injuries.

She added: “Dorset Police has a knife crime strategy together with partner agencies and our communities to reduce knife crime in all its forms. We will target known repeat offenders and work to recognise trends such as the continuing link between knife crime and drug related activity.

“By working closely with partners ranging from schools to retailers and transport workers, Dorset Police is committed to preventing people from engaging in knife crime. We also work with victims and vulnerable people, such as those who may be exploited by county lines gangs, to reduce the impact of knife crime on our communities.

“We urge anyone who thinks someone they know is carrying a knife to let us know. People who carry knives are at greater risk of harm themselves as situations involving knives escalate quickly.”