Canterbury doormen believe knife crime is worse than ever before amid fears London-style attacks are spilling onto the city’s high street.
Akon Security boss Oli Nonis worries his employees could fall foul of the growing surge, as they record as many as two incidents involving a blade every month.
The businessman – whose firm mans the entrances to a number of Canterbury venues – thinks more police patrols are needed to snub out the issue.
This comes after the city was rocked by two separate stabbings – which have already led to four arrests – in little more than 24 hours last weekend.
“In my first 12 years of doing this job, I could count on one hand all the incidents involving knives,” Mr Nonis told KentOnline.
“But in the last five years, I’ve lost count. It’s the worst I’ve known it in Canterbury in my time here.
“We’re starting to build our own database to catalogue incidents involving knives because it’s becoming more frequent.
“Without keeping these kinds of records, we’re going to lose track of them.”
Mr Nonis says he has lodged a complaint with the police about their handling of an incident in January, which saw them arrest a young man after a 15-inch knife was found in his bag.
The door supervisor claims his staff members discovered the sheathed weapon during routine checks at the entrance to a city nightspot venue.
The suspect was detained by officers, before being released without charge “within three hours”.
“He went back to the same place and stood there winding up the staff. It’s ridiculous,” Mr Nonis continued.
“From what we were told, the reason for his release was because he justified having it by saying he was using it as a prop in a rap video.
“It was a military blade, which was sheathed, with only one purpose – to seriously hurt someone.”
Police officials have confirmed they were called to the incident three months ago, following “a report security staff had found a blade in a bag”.
A spokesman for the force says a man was arrested on suspicion of possession of a knife, but he was released without charge.
Further enquiries into the incident uncovered no evidence that showed the suspect had knowledge the blade was in the bag, which he stated was not his.
“With everything that’s going on, I was surprised with how it was dealt with. It doesn’t send the right message,” Mr Nonis added.
People fear for their safety as reports of knife crime are on the rise. Footage: KMTV
“If nothing’s done to seriously address knife crime, we’re only going to see it get worse. It’s not just London – it’s spreading out.
“There needs to be a designated team that’s patrolling the high street on foot, deterring anyone from doing anything they shouldn’t be. I worry how long it’s going to be before one of my team are actually stabbed or affected by it.”
Akon Security has recently spent a further £10,000 on stab-proof vests for its supervisors in the wake of the cases.
Latest ONS figures support an anecdotal rise in violent crime and anti-social behaviour that has been keenly felt by many residents across the district.
In the year up to September, violent incidents rose by 7% while public order offences were up 5%, criminal damage and arson up 6%, and sexual offences also jumped 8%.
However, the number of people caught in possession of weapons – like guns and knives – fell by a tenth over the same period. And between 2020 and 2021, total recorded crime dropped by 2%.
Responding to Mr Nonis’s concerns, Chief Insp Mark Hedges said: “While we appreciate people may be concerned following recent incidents in Canterbury, I would like to assure residents we are working to ensure the city remains a safe place to live and visit.
“There is nothing to suggest that the incidents last week are related or that there is any wider threat to the public.
“We currently have an increased presence of officers in Canterbury working to deter any further offences and responding to any concerns which are raised.
“Our Community Safety Unit also works with partner agencies and licensees to deter and detect the carrying of knives, including using detection arches in the city.”
Chief Insp Hedges is urging anyone concerned about knife crime to contact his officers by calling 101, or 999 if a crime is in progress, “so we have the best information available to us to continue to tackle the issue”.