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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Crime figures show another rise in knife crime

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Knife crime shows a further 7% increase with hot-spots in London, West Midlands, West Yorkshire & Greater Manchester.

Crime rate unchanged overall

Today’s crime figures which cover the year ending this June confirms recent trends with overall levels of crime broadly stable over recent years with variations between different types of crime. The latest figures show a mixed picture, with continued rises in some types of theft, “bank and credit account fraud” and falls in “computer viruses”. There were also increases in some of the less frequently occurring but higher-harm types of violence, including a 7% increase in offences involving knives or sharp instruments.

One piece of good news was a small (5%) but welcome fall in the number of homicides following increases over the last four years. On the debit side, there was a 4% increase in the number of police recorded offences involving firearms.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) indicated a continuing rise in fraud with the latest estimates showing a 15% increase, driven by a 17% rise in “bank and credit account fraud”.

All other main crime types measured by CSEW showed no change, including lower-harm violent offences (for example, violence without injury and assault with minor injury). 

The likelihood of being a victim

The latest survey estimates show that 8 in 10 adults did not experience any of the crimes asked about in the survey in the previous 12 months – see the graphic below. This figure has remained stable since the introduction of fraud and computer misuse offences into the CSEW. It is much more likely for an adult in England and Wales to experience fraud, than a violent offence. 

 

Weapons

Over the last year, police figures indicated rises in some higher-harm violent offences involving the use of weapons. Recorded offences involving knives or sharp instruments increased by 7% to 44,076 offences. The Office for National Statistics notes that this latest rise is smaller than that seen a year ago (up 14% in the year ending June 2018). While the total number of offences in England and Wales increased, there was a mixed picture across the different police
force areas, with the Metropolitan Police recording little change in the number of offences in the last year, an
increase of 17 from 14,949 to 14,966 offences.

Although less prevalent than offences involving knives or sharp instruments, offences involving firearms recorded
by the police rose by 4% (to 6,734 offences). Following previous decreases these offences have seen rises over
the last five years when comparing the year ending March figures. Part of this rise might be attributed to improvements in recording practices by police to better identify the involvement of a firearm. 

[Note: the reason for the different versions of knife crime including & excluding Manchester figures are because historically the Greater Manchester force was found to be under-counting these offences.]

Robberies

One other crime type which has been rising over the last four years was robbery. The police recorded an 11% rise in robbery in the last year (to 88,177 offences), following consistent increases since the year ending March 2015. Over this period the number of recorded robbery offences has increased by 76%. Robbery offences are disproportionately concentrated in London, accounting for 41% of all recorded robberies in the year ending June 2019. In comparison, over the same time period, London accounted for 17% of all recorded crimes in England and Wales.

Conclusion

Although the continued rise in the number of knife crimes and robberies are of concern, we should be reassured that overall crime levels remain stable (and much lower than 20 years ago) and that the number of homicides has fallen again.

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2 Responses

  1. I think this is a mistaken interpretation of the latest knife crime figures.

    There’s no CSEW data to triangulate recorded crime. The ONS notes that A&E admissions only rose by 2% (and I can see no rationale for this not mirroring a ‘real’ increase). The definition of ‘knife crime’ is vague, and requires neither a knife nor the actual use of a knife / sharp or pointed implement. There is consequently plenty of room for interpretation.

    The ONS report notes that changes to GMP’s recording practices led to an unreliable increase in GMP recorded crime in the last year; but the same processes affecting GMP have affected every force area. Knife crime is now a priority. Forces are expected to ‘improve’ how they record knife crime. A great many are recording incidents that would not have been identified as ‘knife crime’ a year or two ago, and some are engaging in partnerships with technology companies to implement automated / machine learning solutions to identify knife crime more robustly. GMP (and Lancs, going by notes) may have identified changes to the ONS; other forces may have made such changes without providing such accompanying information.

    Succinctly, there are very good reasons to believe that recording practices have changed. I find it hard not to see the NHS 2% figure as a more credible reflection of ‘reality,’ though.

  2. Thanks Geoff. It’s certainly true that any area of political and media focus is likely to receive more attention and therefore more comprehensive recording. I also agree that the NHS figure is more likely to be accurate, although, again, I don’t know to what extent there is renewed attention on the recording practice. Like many of the reports I cover on the blog, they are susceptible to more detailed analysis and I tend to rely on the official analysis, although I’m delighted to have more expert input such as yours.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.
    Best wishes.

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