The country’s largest police force seized nearly 300 knives and arrested almost 1,000 people in a week-long crackdown on violent crime.

The Metropolitan Police said Operation Sceptre, described as an “intensification” of existing knife crime prevention efforts, saw officers conduct targeted patrols in violence hotspots and carry out increased weapons sweeps.

But it comes at a time of heightened concern around youth violence, with 2021 on course to see record numbers of teenage homicides in the capital.

The Met announced on Thursday morning that a murder investigation is under way into the fatal stabbing of a youth, believed to be a 16-year-old, in Hounslow, west London.

Teenage homicides in London
(PA Graphics)

It takes the number of confirmed teenage homicides in London to 28, one off the previous peak in 2008.

Superintendent Jim Corbett, who led Operation Sceptre for the Met, said: “Knife crime completely destroys victims, families and communities, which is why tackling it is our top priority.

“Officers will continue doing everything they can to target those intent on committing violent crime on our streets, to make London safer.

“Suppressing violence needs a holistic approach to deliver long-lasting solutions.

“We must all work together – the responsibility lies with us all to create safe communities.”

The Met said that year-to-date figures showed a 32% reduction in knife crime compared with 2019, as well as a 28% reduction in knife injury to victims under the age of 25.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor London, said: “If you look at the numbers of people arrested, the number of knives taken off our streets, it has been a success.

“Although fewer teenagers are being stabbed, the consequences are far more serious with too many teenagers losing their lives.

“Teenage homicides are going up and we know that crime has many complex causes – alienation, poverty, deprivation – and we know those things have been exacerbated during the pandemic. That’s why it’s so important that we don’t give up.”

He denied that knife crime was part of living in London.

Following a visit with local police officers to Woolwich in east London, Mr Khan said: “Nobody should have to accept violent crime or people losing their lives.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Trevor Lawry, the borough commander for south-east London, said policing knife crime was “not an impossible task”.

He said: “We can’t do it on our own. It has to be done with the community.

“And if I make one plea today it is to ask the community to help us to help them in making sure that more young people don’t lose their lives.”