Andy Burnham says students should feel safe but refutes claims of ‘knife epidemic’ in Greater Manchester

Mr Burnham was speaking after a 19-year-old student who has been named as Luke O’Connor died in hospital after being stabbed on Wilmslow Road.

Andy Burnham has promised Greater Manchester Police will do everything they can to make students feel safe following a fatal stabbing in the Fallowfield area of Manchester.

The Greater Manchester mayor said his heart went out to the family of the 19-year-old student, who has been named as Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) student Luke O’Connor, after he was killed in a ‘random attack’ on Wilmslow Road on Wednesday (26 October).

Speaking on BBC Radio Manchester on Thursday (27 October), Mr Burnham said students should feel safe in the city and promised to help however he can. But he refuted claims that there is a ‘knife epidemic’ in Greater Manchester.

What did Mr Burnham say about knife crime and what do the statistics show?

Mr Burnham said: “I know when these incidents happen they are high profile, they’re shocking, but the figures don’t say that there is a massive increase between last year and this year. But of course, everybody would say it’s far too high.

“I don’t think we’d say there is an exponential increase. But we’re very worried about the issue.”

According to an annual report produced by the deputy mayor’s office, there were 3,818 recorded incidents of knife crime in the year ending March 2021.

Fallowfield stabbing victim Luke O’Connor

This figure increased to 18 pc in the next year, with 4,510 incidents recorded.

The report also reveals that 43 pc of suspects and 39 pc of victims of knife crime in Greater Manchester are aged under 25, mostly young men and boys.

However, Mr Burnham said the latest figures presented at a knife crime summit last week in Manchester were broadly comparable to last year.

Nevertheless, he said he was going to speak to the Vice Chancellor of MMU on Thursday (27 October) and meet with the student representative bodies soon.

What else did Mr Burnham say about knife crime and police responses to it?

Mr Burnham spoke of the importance of having a police presence in the community. The Labour mayor also said there are now more police officers on the streets this year than there were last year and more people are being stopped and searched. He also defended the tactic of stop and search by officers, which has been criticised in some quarters.

He added: “That is a controversial tactic and it has to be done carefully but it is being done carefully by Greater Manchester Police and there are significantly more stops and searches taking place to apprehend people with weapons. If more weapons are being carried, obviously it follows that more needs to be done to find those.”