Operation Divan is a Police-led partnership initiative to challenge and discourage the carrying of knives by young people in North Yorkshire. This guidance explains the context of Operation Divan, and the role which Children & Family Services have in supporting it.
Youth knife crime is still very low in North Yorkshire, but we are seeing a rising trend consistent with the national picture. Agencies, communities and families must work together to protect our children from this grave harm.
When NY Police receive reports or intelligence about young people carrying knives, these will initially be investigated to establish whether a crime has occurred, and if there is sufficient evidence for criminal charges.
If this is so, the Police are required by national crime reporting rules to process it through criminal channels. This may be by referral to the Youth Outcomes Panel or by charging directly to Court.
Operation Divan arises when the circumstances do not establish that a provable crime has occurred, but there are general concerns that the young person may be putting themselves or others at risk through association with knives. Operation Divan is a prevention and safeguarding intervention, offering positive support to those young people.
Instigation – If the investigating Police Officer is satisfied that no provable crime has occurred, but that the circumstances indicate general concerns about knives, they will arrange to carry out a joint Operation Divan intervention with a worker from Children & Family Services.
If the young person or their family is currently or recently open to a CFS team, then it is presumed that their allocated worker will participate in the Operation Divan intervention. If the young person and family have no current or recent CFS involvement, Early Help Service will provide the Operation Divan response. If the young person has previous recorded criminal outcomes, this will be undertaken by Youth Justice workers.
Importantly, this is a swift and informal response. Police officers will instigate an Operation Divan joint visit via a streamlined notification pathway.
Intervention – Operation Divan is simply a focused discussion with the young person and their parents, to share our concerns and offer positive support.
This meeting will usually take place by appointment at the family home, but it may sometimes be preferable to use a private room in a school or other venue. Arrangements in each case will need to be negotiated to fit availability, but should be prioritised as a safeguarding action.
This is a non-statutory process, and families are entitled to refuse to participate. CFS staff should not emphasise or encourage this, and it may be more effective in some cases for the Police Officer to make the arrangements. If the young person is under YJS supervision, this visit should be incorporated into their plan.
The investigating Police Officer will state clearly that the criminal investigation has finished, no provable offence has been identified, and this is not a criminal “PACE Interview” of a suspect. What the young person says now is not admissible in evidence, and they can talk freely (but see important note below).
The Police Officer’s main objective will be to explain the risks of knives to the young person and parents. This will include references to the criminal penalties, but the main focus is the very serious risks of personal injury or death.
We then want to understand the young person’s perspective and experiences. Are knives becoming more common in their school or community? If so, why do they think this is? We should be alert to issues like bullying, peer pressure or fear of being attacked with a knife.
We should also capture intelligence and learning for services, to help us more effectively discourage young people from carrying knives. Which shops are selling knives to children, how are they being smuggled into schools, etc? Is there a connection to organised drug distribution, or a particular threat in their community which causes the young person or their friends to feel unsafe?
The CFS worker should support and develop this discussion, moving towards agreement of what positive actions the young person and parents can take to reduce risk, and what support they may need. If continued support will require new service referrals and consents to be completed, this can be completed with the family.
At the end of the visit, the Police Officer will wish to leave a leaflet or notice which summarises key points of the anti-knife message. They may ask the young person or parents to sign an acknowledgement that they have received this. This has no legal effect, the intention is only to symbolise and reinforce the discussion. But if they prefer not to accept or sign anything, that’s okay.