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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

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

Crime figures show another rise in serious violence

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Latest crime stats show a 14% increase in homicides.

Crime rate unchanged overall

The latest crime figures published last Thursday (24 January 2019) confirm a new trend for the increase in what the statisticians call “lower-volume but higher-harm violence”.

The figures cover the year to 30 September 2018 and here are the headline findings:

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) provides the best overview of long-term changes in theft
offences, with the latest estimates showing no significant change. For crime types thought to be well-reported and accurately recorded, police recorded crime data can help identify short-term changes. In the last few years, the police recorded series has been showing increases in many types of offences involving theft but the latest figures show a mixed picture:

  • a 3% increase in vehicle offences, due largely to a 10% increase in the subcategory of “Theft or unauthorised taking of a motor vehicle”
  • a 17% increase in robbery offences, continuing increases seen in previous years
  • a 1% decrease in burglary, following increases in recent years
  • a 1% decrease in shoplifting, following a longer period of increases

There has been no change in commonly occurring types of violent crime. Our assessment from the CSEW is that
the level of lower-harm violent offences (for example, violence without injury, assault with minor injury) is stable.
However, police recorded crime and NHS data give more insight into the lower-volume but higher-harm violence
that the survey does not capture well. These data sources show:

  • an 8% increase in the number of police recorded offences involving knives or sharp instruments
  • a 15% increase in the number of admissions to hospital in England for assaults involving a sharp instrument
  • a 14% increase in the number of homicides
  • a 4% decrease in the number of police recorded offences involving firearms

Many of these lower-volume, higher-harm types of violence tend to be concentrated in London and other
metropolitan areas.

The only main crime type measured by the survey that showed a change in the latest year was computer misuse which decreased by 33%.

Over the last year, police figures indicate rises in some higher-harm violent offences involving the use of weapons. Recorded offences involving knives or sharp instruments went up by 8% to 39,818 2 . However, there was a decrease seen in offences involving firearms, which fell by 4% (to 6,424 offences). These differences are thought to reflect genuine changes rather than changes in police recording practices. The chart below shows the details:

Homicides

The total number of homicides recorded by the police rose by 8% (to 739 offences). When the victims of terrorist attacks such as those in Manchester and London in recent years  are excluded, a worrying upward trend can be seen.  The latest figures show 90 more homicides than the previous year, a 14% rise from 649 to 739 offences. This continues an upward trend in homicides since March 2014, indicating a change to the long-term decrease over the previous decade.

Conclusion

Although it is important to remember that these increases in knife crime and murders (robberies, particularly in London, were also up) take place in the context of a crime rate that has fallen substantially over recent years and is now flatlining.

Nevertheless, increases in such serious crimes will obviously cause concern and we must wait for next quarter’s statistics to see whether the latest set of new initiatives to respond to knife crime start to have a positive impact on the figures.

Related posts you might like:

10 key facts from the latest crime figures

There was a 7% increase in police recorded crime compared with the previous year, with 4.4 million offences recorded in the year ending December 2015. Most of this rise is thought to be owing to improved crime recording by the police leading to a greater proportion of reports of crime being recorded in the last year.

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