Hundreds of Bedfordshire children were convicted or cautioned for knife crimes in just over a decade, figures show.
The Government has pledged to do more to protect young people from knife crime and get weapons off the streets, after knife and offensive weapons convictions among under-18s rose significantly across England and Wales prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ministry of Justice figures for Bedfordshire Police show young people were involved in 474 of the 2,324 cases resulting in cautions or convictions between July 2010 and June 2021 – making up 20 per cent of those punished.
And 188 of those punishments were handed to children aged between just 10 and 15.
The true scale of crimes involving children is likely to be higher as the data is limited to the possession of knives or offensive weapons and threats involving such weapons – it does not include assaults, murders or other kinds of weapons offences.
Of the youngsters convicted in Bedfordshire, most (83 per cent) were first time offenders but 79 had at least one previous conviction, and seven had three or more.
Young offenders were sent to prison in 57 of the cases recorded in the last 11 years, while 238 investigations ended with community sentences and 117 led to a caution being issued.
The Ben Kinsella Trust, established in memory of a teen knifed to death at the age of 16, called for more to be done to educate young people on the dangers of knife crime.
The charity's CEO, Patrick Green, said the figures illustrated the negative impact knife crime was having on young lives, adding "no child was born carrying a knife".
He said: "We should not forget that young people are also increasingly likely to be victims."
The latest national figures show nearly 38,500 punishments were issued to youngsters for knife and offensive weapon crime since July 2010 – 3,600 in the year to June.
That was up 6 per cent on the year before – though the previous 12-month period included the first national lockdown and pandemic-related disruption to the criminal justice system.
Of the cautions and convictions in 2020-21, 20 were handed down in Bedfordshire.
The lower crime levels seen during the pandemic followed a steady rise in punishments for knife and offensive weapons offences across England and Wales.
Cautions or convictions involving young people rose from 2,500 in 2012-13 to a peak of 4,250 in 2018-19.
A Government spokesman said it was combining "tough enforcement" and early intervention programmes to get dangerous weapons off the streets and to divert youngsters away from crime.
He said every life lost to knife crime is a tragedy, adding that an additional 20,000 police officers and increased stop and search powers would help to save lives and ensure more dangerous weapons are seized.
The spokesman added: “Knife crime has fallen under this Government since 2019, but we are determined to do more and this requires a joined-up response – particularly to protect our young people."