As concerns grow of a national knife epidemic, police have confirmed that arrests have been made for the possession of offensive weapons in Ledbury, and in surrounding villages.

But the message from police is that the number of incidents is relatively small and the area is still a "very safe place to live".

Office West Mercia Police figures, provided by Inspector James Ashton, show that between January and August this year, there were "seven crimes of possession of offensive weapon reported for the Ledbury area".

There were four in Ledbury and three in nearby villages, whilst in the Ross area, by comparison, 14 offences were reported over the same period.

However, three were reported for the Ledbury area in August alone, with at least one of those involving a knife, according to Inspector Ashton.

Police have not given the nature of the weapons for each offence, but Inspector Ashton confirmed that no firearms were involved, and added: "The crime of possessing an offensive weapon relates to anything which actually is a weapon - a knife, sword, knuckledusters and so on, but also includes items used or intended as offensive weapons. This latter category is very wide but might fit a person carrying a baseball bat when they’re not going to play that sport, or a person with a jack handle down the side of their car seat 'for protection'.

"Therefore, the data doesn’t simply relate to knife crime."

He added: "It should also be noted that, where weapons are recovered as a result of a stop search this is indicative of pro-active policing and so not necessarily a negative indicator.

"I am committed to our approach of Safer People, Safer Homes and Safer Roads and reducing the possession of offensive weapons certainly supports those aims. We recently held a knife amnesty as part of a national campaign, which removed weapons from the streets and officers make good use of powers available to them to search for weapons when grounds exist.

"I would also add that we will always take positive action against those found carrying them."

Inspector Ashton said he hoped this would provide residents with "reassurance that Ledbury is a very safe place to live in; but that we are continuing to work to ensure that it remains that way".

Under police definition, possession of an office weapon is officially defined "possession of a weapon, such as a firearm or knife".

Some of the alleged offences have been recorded for residential areas in Ledbury, including one for Ballard Close in August, which is still under investigation, and another for Browning Road on the New Mills estate, which was also in August and is also still under investigation.

Concerning the Ballard Close arrest, the Reporter understands it was linked with an alleged domestic incident.

The news about weapons on Ledbury's streets has been met with dismay by Annette Crowe, chairman of the Ledbury Traders' Association, who said: "We live in a little bubble in Ledbury, but we are not immune from the outside world

"Nothing horrible happens in Browning Road! It's a lovely area! This is a worrying discovery and it's scary."

But Ledbury's mayor, Cllr Phillip Howells, while saying they were "eye-opening statistics" he added: "It's reassuring to know the police are on the case."

Cllr Howells expressed concern that some young people might be tempted to carry weapons in a misguided attempt to make themselves feel safer.

He added: "But if they have weapons, it means that someone may respond with force to them."