Knife crime nationwide shot up 7% to a record high last year, ‘damning’ new figures reveal.
England and Wales recorded the highest number of offences involving a knife or sharp instrument ever in 2019 – some 45,627.
Police-recorded offences for the year to December increased from 42,555 in 2018, data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today showed. The latest stats are 49% higher than when data of this kind was first collected in the year to March 2011. The number of such offences rose 13% in the West Midlands and by 5% in London, but dropped 9% in West Yorkshire – the three areas of the country with the highest rate per 100,000 population.
The report said: ‘Knife or sharp instrument offences continue to be concentrated in metropolitan areas across England and Wales, with around a third (34%) of all offences recorded by the police in London.’
The rising trend in knife crimes could be driven by an increase in robberies, the ONS suggested, after the number soared 12% to 83,930 from 75,022 in 2018.
Labour linked the rise in knife crime to falling police numbers and branded the government’s approach a failure.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: ‘These damning figures show the Conservative government continues to fail communities on crime, especially when it comes to knife crime.
‘This has been the inevitable consequence of huge cuts to policing and the loss of 21,000 officers, and the cuts to the key services we rely on to prevent crime, such as youth clubs, mental health support and probation.’
He continued: ‘The failure on crime shows again the devastating impact of austerity and why our country can’t afford to make the same mistakes when we emerge from the Coronavirus crisis.’
The number of homicides rose by 2% to 670, up from 655. That total includes the bodies of the 39 Vietnamese people found in a lorry in Grays, Essex, in October. Excluding this, the number would have fallen by 4%, the ONS said.
The figures also show a 15% rise of homicides recorded by the Metropolitan Police in the last year – to 146 from 127.
Of all recorded homicides last year, 40% involved a knife or sharp instrument, a similar proportion to 2018, according to the data.
Burglary was down 7% to 366,718, and recorded firearms offences also fell by 3% from 6,243 to 6,060.
Police recorded 5.8 million crimes in England and Wales last year, the ONS said, adding that the overall level of crime has remained ‘broadly stable’.
The figures do not include Greater Manchester Police, which is unable to provide data due to ongoing problems with a new computer system.
Diana Fawcett, chief executive of the charity Victim Support, said: ‘We are concerned that reports of knife crime and homicide have risen.
‘Although the streets are quieter, the impact of knife crime is still being felt.
‘Many victims will still be dealing with the emotional consequences of threats or attacks which took place long ago.’
Last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he would lead a new Cabinet committee looking at ways to tackle crime.
He also told ministers that every department should consider itself a criminal justice department as part of a drive to look at the “complex causes of crime” which would involve long-term reforms to improve health, social care, youth services and education.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said she remained ‘steadfast’ in making sure the ‘criminal minority’ do not get away with crimes, adding: ‘I will continue to give the police the stop and search powers, funding and extra officers they need to keep our families, communities and country safe.’
Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: ‘I think the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have both been very clear about the importance they place on tackling knife crime and that’s why we’ve given more powers and more resources.
‘It’s very clear that there’s more to be done to crack down on thugs carrying knives and ensuring they are properly punished.’