Most crime types stable
Last week’s crime figures which cover the year ending December 2019 confirm recent trends with overall levels of crime broadly stable over recent years with variations between different types of crime.
The level of crime has remained broadly stable in recent years; the latest figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimate a fall of 5% in the year ending December 2019. However, it is too early to say from this single data point whether this will come to represent a change in the recent trend. Underlying this fall, total theft decreased by 9%, to levels similar to those seen in the year ending March 2017. All other main crime types measured by the CSEW showed no change, including overall fraud and lower-harm violent offences (for example, violence without injury and assault with minor injury).
Police recorded crime data give more insight into the lower-volume but higher-harm violence that the survey either does not cover or does not capture well.
A mixed picture
For the year ending December 2019 in England and Wales police recorded crime data (excluding Greater Manchester police still, because of IT issues) show a mixed picture, with:
- a 3% decrease in recorded offences involving firearms
- a 7% increase in the number of offences involving knives or sharp instruments
- a 2% increase in the overall number of homicides; this includes a single incident with 39 homicide victims, which if excluded shows a 4% decrease overall. (This incident was the tragic death of 39 people from Vietnam in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Essex.)
Many of these lower-volume, higher-harm types of violence tend to be concentrated in metropolitan areas such as London, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire.
While the total number of offences involving knives or sharp instruments in England and Wales (excluding GMP) increased by 7%, rates of increase varied across police forces. For example, there was a 5% increase in London, a 13% increase in the West Midlands and a 9% decrease in West Yorkshire. In addition, the number of homicides where a knife or sharp instrument was involved decreased by 8%. This decrease was despite a 13% increase in London in the number of homicides where a knife or a sharp instrument was involved.
While the CSEW provides the better indication of overall trends in theft offences, police recorded crime data can help identify short-term changes in individual offences that are thought to be well-reported and relatively well-recorded by the police. Total theft offences recorded by the police decreased by 2% compared with the previous year, although these data show a mixed picture, with:
- a 7% decrease in burglary
- a 12% increase in robbery
- a 1% increase in vehicle offences
You can seen an overview of the trends in the main crime types in the official ONS chart below.
For the offences and population that it covers, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) provides the best measure of trends for overall violent crime; particularly for the more common but less harmful offences (for example, assault with minor injury).
There were 1.2 million incidents of violence estimated by the CSEW for the survey year ending December 2019. This figure has not changed significantly since the year ending March 2015, continuing the relatively stable trend seen in recent years.
The police recorded 670 homicides in England and Wales (excluding Greater Manchester Police1 ) in the year ending December 2019, a 2% increase (from 655) compared with the previous year.
The total figure for homicides includes 39 people whose bodies were found in a lorry in Grays, Essex in October 2019. Without this homicide incident, the number of victims would have fallen by 4%. The figures also include a 15% increase (from 127 to 146) recorded by the Metropolitan Police Service in the latest year. The rate of homicide in the population remains very low, at 12 per 1 million people.
The number of homicides where a knife or sharp instrument was involved decreased by 8% in the year ending December 2019 (to 242 offences). Of all recorded homicides in the latest year, 40% involved a knife or sharp instrument, a similar proportion to the previous year. The recent reduction in such offences was driven by falls in 17 Police Force Areas. Despite the overall fall in this type of crime, London had a 13% increase in homicides involving the use of a knife or sharp instrument, from 77 to 87. However, the latest figure is 19% lower compared with the year ending March 2018.
As you can see, overall crime rates are continuing the downwards trend of the last 25 years, albeit with a smaller rate of fall and significant variations across different crime types.
Of course the crime figures for the next two quarterly bulletins at least are likely to show a very different picture as the impact of COVID-19 and associated lockdown emerges.