Avon and Somerset Police will launch a new police operation to tackle knife crime.

Chief Constable Sarah Crew told Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford’s regular performance and accountability board on February 13 that officers would be launching a “high-profile proactive” operation to tackle knife crime. But she added that “unreasonable” use of stop and search powers was not the solution to the problem, and urged communities to share information about knives with the police and for people carrying knives to put them in surrender bins.

Opening the meeting, Mr Shelford said: “I want to start today by acknowledging the tragic events that happened in Bristol a couple of weeks ago. Sadly Max Dixon, 16, and Mason Rist, 15, were stabbed and killed.

“The grief being felt by the families of those boys and the impact it will have on their loved ones as well as the wider community is unimaginable. I want to send my sympathies and condolences to everyone who has been affected by this.”

CC Crew said: “As we go into spring and summer, you will see the force standing up a much more high-profile proactive operation, not unlike our Operation Hemlock that targeted anti-social behaviour on e-scooters and bikes, to bring all our various skill sets in the organisation together to tackle this problem.

“And we will bring our partners in the community in early because this is not about short-term suppression, it is also about tackling the root causes as well in the medium to longer term. As I have said, I think this is as much a community and public health problem requiring of a community and public health solution as much as it is a criminal justice problem and solution.”

Asked by Mr Shelford about the police’s use of stop and search for knives, CC Crew said: “Stop and search, we know, is a really intrusive power. And, whilst we need to be very robust and confident in using it and I know that’s shared by communities too, we can’t use the scourge of knife crime — because that’s what it is — as a reason to use our powers where the information isn’t present and where our use of the power is likely to be unreasonable.

“So we will continue to use it but we would appeal — and I know we have to build the trust to do that […] — for communities to share with us. Because we will then use our powers in a targeted way to be able to get those knives off our street and make our young people in particular much safer.

“But stop and search is just one part, I think, of the story. It’s almost too late as it means there’s already a knife out there on our streets in our communities, and I don’t think stop and search alone is going to solve this problem.”

CC Crew said that the police had been delivering talks to young people in school and in other groups to explain the dangers of carrying knives, developed workshops for children, worked on preventing sales of knives to under-18s in shops, worked with Bristol City Council to develop a short film called “Kitchen Drawer” about the journey of a knife, worked with youth services, carried out patrols, used data to target habitual knife carrying, and worked with the border force to stop knives purchased online from entering the country.

CC Crew added: “We are also obviously championing the surrender of knives to make our communities safer. We have got 17 knife surrender bins now across our area. Since 2016, that’s seen about 4,000 knives being handed in.”

She said: “The locations are published on our website so I would urge people to look at those if they have knives and they want to get rid of them.”

She added that the police hoped to massively scale up the number of 24 hour catastrophic bleed kits which have already been rolled out to 150 locations, with plans for them to be at 300 other locations by the end of the year.