POLICE officers flooded the parks of Swindon in an effort to take dangerous knives off the streets yesterday.

As well as a kitchen knife, officers recovered a stash of dirty drugs needles with the assistance of hobbyist metal detectorists.

Amateur detectorists from as far afield as Liverpool joined police officers as they swept seven parks and grassed areas across south Swindon.

They were looking for knives stashed by warring youths.

Sergeant David Tippetts, who led the operation, said: “We know for sure that weapons are being stashed. If you stash it, you don’t have it in your possession if you’re stopped by police.

“We’ve had instances where children have found weapons on their way to school.”

He said that the knives were often linked to the supply and control of the Swindon drugs trade – but also stemmed from youngsters seeing that rivals were carrying weapons.

Sgt Tippetts said: “Some of it is that young people feel scared and feel that they have to have a weapon.”

He said that knife crime in Swindon was reflective of the national picture. Official statistics released in April suggested that knife crime was up by 14 per cent.

“I think knife crime has been around for a number of years. It’s more of an issue in the bigger cities, but Swindon reflects that.”

He said that it was unusual to find Swindon criminals in possession of so-called “zombie knives” – extravagantly decorated long knives inspired by horror films.

Mostly, the types of blades uncovered by police are kitchen knives or craft blades.

A Swindon-wide police operation last week had seen teenage volunteers attempt to buy knives at 50 shops across the town. Seven stores sold the teens knives and were visited by police, it is understood.

The largest knife he’s taken off the streets was found in Penhill, Sgt Tippetts said. “It was probably about 12 inches long and two inches wide. It was a big hunting knife, buried to the hilt in the ground.”

Police officers were aided yesterday by ten metal detectorists from four different groups.

Chris Shoults, 63, of the Swindon Artefacts Searchers, said he was happy to help the police.

“It’s good - it’s helping the community,” he said.

He has been a metal detectorist for 41 years has a track record of discovering weaponry.

In 1985, he uncovered a Bronze Age hoard in Norfolk boasting 13 axe heads, three spearheads and two weight gauges.

The youngest member of the party, 12-year-old Benjamin Spencer, had travelled all the way from Liverpool to sweep the park with his father.

He said: “I want to find a knife so I can prove to my dad I was first.”

Kevin Parry, borough councillor for Covingham and Dorcan, joined the operation. Coun Parry said: “Operations like these are important, because one crime leads to another. It all links up."

Eldene parish councillor Zachary Hawson, who also joined officers, said: "Operations like this are important in allowing the community to pull together with the police to help them in the great work that they do behind the scenes."