THE number of knife crime incidents in South Essex has shot up by as much as 31 per cent in a year.

Essex Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston said education, community pressure, policing and sentencing needs to make it clear to residents that it is not acceptable for a person to carry a knife or weapon.

Latest figures given to The Echo show 31.1 per cent more knife crimes have occurred in Southend between March 2013 to February 2014, compared to the previous year. It amounts to 70 more incidents in the borough, boosting numbers from 225 to 295.

In Basildon, there has been an 18.1 per cent increase, which amounts to 31 more incidents. Between March 2013 and February this year there were 202 incidents, compared to 171 the previous year.

The figures far outstretch those across Essex, with the countywide figure increasing by 8.3 per cent - or 117 incidents.

Mr Alston said: “It is likely that part of this specific increase is due to the changing demographics of some of our communities, increased reporting of domestic abuse incidents, and police activity around organised criminal groups. I am working closely with the chief constable to ensure we fully understand the nature of these crime patterns.”

Of the 1127 knife crime offences where a knife was used across Essex, 46.2 per cent occurred in a private place and 53.8 per cent in public. Many of those occurring in private places will be cases of domestic abuse or, on occasion, drugs-related incidents where the parties are known to each other.

Around a quarter of the offences were for possession of a knife or bladed item.

Mr Alston added: “I will continue to support proactive policing to take weapons off our streets, and bring those carrying weapons to justice. As PCC, I will also continue to support the ethical and proportionate use of stop and search tactics to target those carrying weapons or dealing in drugs. I believe the vast majority of the people of Essex are in agreement with such an approach.”

Anyone with information about a person carrying a knife or knows that a violent act is likely to occur, should call Essex Police on 999 or 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.