KNIFE offences in Swindon are on the rise.

Figures presented to Swindon councillors by Chief Constable Kier Pritchard last month, show knife crime in the town increased last year. 345 offences were recorded in the 12 months to July, compared to 324 the year before. In the rest of Wiltshire, knife offences dropped by 11 per cent.

Violent crime reports has more than doubled since 2011, with 13,276 violent incidents in 2017, Ch Const Pritchard told councillors.

The presentation, obtained by the Swindon Advertiser under freedom of information rules, appears to contradict public comments by senior officers at Wiltshire Police that knife crime in the county was stable, bucking national trends.

And the latest figures also come days after a 20-year-old was stabbed in the chest in Eldene by a teen gang. Four men have been arrested on suspicion of GBH in connection with the attack.

Supt Adrian Burt, who oversees policing in Swindon, linked rising knife crime numbers to efforts to tackle out-of-town drug gangs.

He said: “The rise in the knife crime figures for Swindon are primarily down to the ongoing, successful work we have been carrying out around county lines, targeting the gangs which use violence and weapons to carry out their crimes.

“Recent work and good intel means we have been able to crack down on more illegal activities of those who use the county to carry out their drug dealing and often violent crimes associated with that.”

Wiltshire Police is a week into its fortnight-long knife amnesty, part of a nationwide anti-knife crime campaign called Op Sceptre.

Supt Burt told the Swindon Advertiser: “The message is clear. If you carry a knife in Swindon or if you use a weapon anywhere we will find you and you will face the full power of the law.

“Carrying a knife is illegal in the UK and the consequences are tough. A person found in possession of a knife – even if it’s not their own – means we and the courts will take firm action. Possession of such a weapon can carry a prison sentence of up to 4 years, even if it isn’t used.”

In Wiltshire more widely, knife crime has fallen. Supt Chris Chammings, who is responsible for community policing teams in the county, said: “As with Swindon, knife crime is taken seriously by us for the rest of the county. A significant amount of work has been carried out into the threat and harm posed to communities by this sort of crime. We have developed a detailed plan, working with partners through our well established Wiltshire Community Safety Partnership to tackle knife crime in the county.”

“To put this in context, the increase in the figures depicted for the county are also a direct result of our improved recording practices. Whilst it is always concerning to see an increase in recorded crime this is now a very accurate picture of what is happening in our county which can then help reflect the work we are doing to combat criminal behaviour.

“We must remember that Wiltshire is still one of the safest counties in the country but we are never complacent as a police force and remain focused when it comes to tackling all crime and criminals.”