Operation Sceptre

Operation Sceptre: Knife test purchase operation in Southampton

Officers from Southampton North Neighbourhood Policing team carried out eight test purchase operations on May 29 as part of their ongoing work to tackle knife crime in the city through Operation Sceptre.

Operation Sceptre is a campaign launched by The Metropolitan Police in 2015 with the aim of reducing knife crime. Police forces nationwide have utilised the operation to reach the same objective in other parts of the UK. Police use a number of proactive work and tactics to reduce knife crime, specifically the number of young people being able to get hold of knives. A test purchase operation is part of that, it’s a partnership approach that looks to ensure retailers uphold their responsibility in keeping young people safe too.

On May 29, our 15-year-old test purchaser went into various shops throughout the city and attempted to purchase a knife.

Out of the eight stores tested, two failed by selling bladed articles to a person aged under 18. On one occasion, a member of staff told the tester to use the self-checkout to make the purchase easier as they couldn’t sell it to her at the till.

The stores were in Portswood, Mansbridge and Bitterne Park.

The operation was carried out with the assistance of Southampton Trading Standards, who are responsible for ensuring businesses implement adequate training programmes and maintain accurate record keeping.

The cashiers were spoken to and managers of the stores that failed were given advice around training, responsibility and implementation of ‘Challenge 25.’

Police Sergeant Alex Peacock from Southampton North Neighbourhood Policing Team, said:

It is disappointing that two stores failed but great that the majority did the right thing and challenged a child trying to buy a knife. Correct procedures must be practiced to prevent young people from easily obtaining knives and potentially putting their lives, or the lives of others, at risk.

These operations are about keeping Southampton safer in partnership. We must ensure retailers uphold their responsibilities in investing in that too.

We’re really happy with the positive results from the stores that passed and we will keep doing all we can to raise awareness about knife crime and retail responsibility. All the stores will be subject to future testing to ensure consistent compliance.


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