Drug dealing is prompting more children to carry knives as a 'form of defence', a top police officer has said.

The involvement of young people in knife crime has been growing across Buckinghamshire with children carrying knives to "defend themselves" during County Lines drug operations.

There have been a worrying number of knife crimes and stabbings across Wycombe.

Recently, a teenage boy was hit in the face with a chain and stabbed in the buttock by four men in Bridge Street on October 20. 

Two 15-year-old boys were threatened with knives and robbed on the A40 London Road on October 18. 

And an attempted murder probe was launched on September 7 after a man was stabbed with a "machete or a sword" in broad daylight in Easton Street.

Thames Valley Police is part of the nationwide Op Sceptre campaign, running this week, which is aimed at raising awareness of the danger of carrying knives.

The force's assistant chief constable Christian Bunt explained how carrying knives "carries huge risks".

He said: "A lot of the time having a knife to defend themselves is more of a perceived risk than an actual risk and a 'in case they need it' so there are huge risks involved in that.

"If you get caught then you run the risk of getting a criminal record but you may get involved in serious violence or end up being a victim as a result of that.

"Young children carrying knives to protect themselves carry's huge risks and we know they end up getting involved in violent crime.

"There's a lot of complex issues but there's definitely a young move with young people feeling it is an appropriate measure to defend themselves.

"The clear message from us is don't do it."

In a bid to tackle this issue across High Wycombe, the force has adopted coaching and mentoring schemes to stop children using knives.

Traditional policing measures have also been used including high visibility patrols targeting individuals and places where knives have been carried.

Assistant Chief Constable Bunt added: "It's a much wider societal issue and we certainly know that young people are linked to county lines drugs and we know young people are being exploited by criminal gangs and they carry knives as a form of defence. We have definitely seen that as an area of prevalence.

"We are also seeing knife crime in urban areas rather than rural so that's a distinction we can make."

We asked the assistant chief constable whether lockdown has seen an increase in stabbings.

He said: "We've seen an increasing pattern of knife crime over the past couple of years, we've seen that nationally and it has been an ongoing issue and that's why were dong this to address it.

"Even with lockdown we are seeing people out on the streets and they shouldn't be and we're doing Covid enforcement.

"The lockdown may have some impact in terms of general community tension but I don't think it's linked to Covid it's just the trend we've seen in the past years.

"Things have continued with that trend and we're trying to stop that further."

Residents are being assured that there are fewer random knife attacks happening.

Assistant Chief Constable Bunt concluded: "I don't want people to be concerned by it and we are doing a lot of activity and were putting lots of additional resources in tackling this so would like to provided that reassurance.

"I want people to be warned, not alarmed."