LONDON - British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday (March 6) she will hold a special meeting on tackling Britain's soaring knife-crime rate as she battles accusations that her government's austerity policies are partly to blame.
A wave of fatal stabbings has dominated headlines this week, displacing concerns about Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) and fuelling criticism that Mrs May is neglecting other priorities during the Brexit negotiations.
A former head of Britain's biggest police force accused the prime minister of being personally responsible for the crisis because of her squeeze on police funding and a weakening of powers to stop and search suspects.
Police officers described the situation as a national emergency and politicians pressed Mrs May during her weekly question session in parliament to explain whether she plans to reverse the funding squeeze on police.
Mrs May, a former interior minister, said more must be done to tackle the causes of violence and promised to meet victims but declined to say whether there would be an increase in spending on police.
"Police alone won't sort this out ... we can't arrest our way out of this problem," she said. "We will only defeat the scourge of violence if we understand and address its complex root causes."
She said she would convene what she called a summit in the coming days at her Downing Street office, bringing together ministers, community leaders, agencies and others.
RISING POLITICAL IMPORTANCE
The issue of knife crime has risen up the political agenda after two teenagers were stabbed over the weekend. A man, believed to be aged in his 20s, became the latest fatality on Wednesday after being stabbed in east London, bringing the number of people killed by knives this year to at least 25.