By Grace Duckham, Imogen Knowles

Knives are fast becoming the weapon of choice for young men and are becoming more popular during assaults and robberies, according to a report released today.

The Australia Institute of Criminology Trends and Issues report found that of the 14,000 offenders interviewed, about 2000 admitted owning at least one knife.

The report’s analysis of the National Armed Robbery Monitoring Program found knives were the most commonly used weapon, accounting for 47 per cent of armed robberies.

But the most common reason of carrying a knife was for self-defence and protection.

Australian Institute of Criminology senior researcher Dr Lorana Bartels said the most common age when boys started carrying knives was in their early teens.

“Around 13, 14 seems to be the most common age for starting to carry … and this obviously highlights the need for early intervention,” Dr Bartels said.

Dr Bartels agreed that young men carry knives for safety rather than for crime.

“There appears to be a cohort of young boys, who are carrying knives in order to feel safe and feel that they can protect themselves and many of them will not actually go on to use those knives,” Dr Bartels said.

Doctor Bartels said a better understanding of how and why young people carry knives is vital when implementing knife education programs.

Brisbane Youth Services fundraising manager Richard Langford said their service has not yet noticed an increase in knife use, but said some at-risk youth did feel vulnerable and needed to protect themselves.

“We do know that people are feeling sort of unsafe out on the street,” Mr Langford said.

He said it is important that at-risk youths know there are services there to help them, rather than resorting to violence as a form of protection.