Police are continuing their investigations after a woman photographed a young boy holding a large knife as he walked along an Eastbourne street at the weekend.
The parents of the boys have been notified and officers are visiting schools in Eastbourne today to warn of the dangers of carrying knives.
The knife is also being forensically examined to see if it has been involved in any crimes.
The drama unfolded on Saturday afternoon when Gemma Fountain spotted a group of youths walking past her Roselands Avenue flat. She took a photograph which appeared to show one of them carrying the blade.
Gemma watched as one of them stuck the knife into a tree stump and then posted on the Facebook group Bridgemere and Roselands Goings On to raise the alarm while a neighbour called the police on 101.
Gemma retrieved the knife as the group of youths made their way to Roselands Playground nearby but says it was several hours before it was passed over to the police as it appears it was not deal with as an emergency.
As the original post on Facebook was shared more than 1,000 times within an hour, the story dominated social media with scores of people following the incident.
The Facebook group reported that it was only when officers were called to Roselands Avenue to investigate another incident later that night, that the knife was handed to them by Gemma.
Gemma said, “It’s not something we want to see on our streets, not in our neighbourhood.
“The trouble is there is nothing for young people and teenagers to do in Eastbourne. We need an ice-rink, somewhere they can go and let off steam.”
The apparent delay in the knife being collected by police has prompted criticism from former officers who seek to hold the Sussex police and crime commissioner and Chief Constable Giles York to account and highlight problems with police response times and in particular the apparent unfit for purpose 101 call handling system.
Retired Sussex CID boss Kevin Moore said, “Bearing in mind the current national issues regarding stabbings with knives, one would probably assume the police would prioritise this in terms of attendance? Sadly not. It took many hours for them to finally attend. Initially, the caller was told that they would not be attending.
“By this time the member of the public had recovered the knife. The police call handling centre said they would call by at some stage to collect it. Eventually, many hours later, the police finally did attend. Just what the hell is going on? If knife crime is at crisis levels which it certainly is, then surely this warranted immediate police attendance. Unfortunately, the initial call was made via the 101 system rather than 999, but it should still have been given a high priority status surely?
Eastbourne Police released a statement yesterday afternoon (Sunday) and nothing further has been issued.
It said, “Police in Eastbourne have seized a knife believed to be the one photographed in the hand of a boy in the town on Saturday afternoon (March 9).
“A number of youths were photographed in a small group in Roselands Avenue around 5pm. The first report was made to police at 6.35pm and officers attended on Saturday evening to collect the knife.
“Several witnesses have already been spoken to, including the parent of one of the boys in the photograph, but police would still like to speak to anyone in connection with the incident.”
Chief Inspector Anita Turner, the district policing commander for Eastbourne, said, “Fortunately, nobody was injured, but we will not accept knives being carried on the streets of Eastbourne and this incident is being rigorously investigated.
“Knife crime is very much in the news at the moment and this comes on the eve of the launch of Operation Sceptre, which is a national week of awareness aiming to educate people on the dangers of carrying knives. We are determined to keep Sussex safe and anyone carrying a knife, especially as blatantly as on this occasion, can expect to be robustly dealt with.”
Anyone with any information about the incident on Saturday can report it online or call 101 quoting serial 1025 of 09/03.