Is Knife crime reaching a ‘record high’ in England and Wales?

Last week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the latest crime statistics leading a number of newspapers to publish headlines that knife crime in England and Wales had risen to a “record high”. Nationwide, the country has seen an overall rise of seven per cent, with 44,076 incidents involving a knife or sharp instrument. The figures led to Javed Khan, chief executive of charity Barnardo’s, saying “It’s totally unacceptable that the knife crime crisis continues to claim so many young lives, with offences at record high. Knife crime is a symptom of a much wider, complex problem. Too many young people are suffering a ‘poverty of hope’, and facing a future with no qualifications, no prospects, and no role models, making them vulnerable to criminal gangs who force them to deliver drugs and carry knives.”

Are the claims of record highs, correct?

Although it is accurate that knife offences have risen significantly, the comparable data only goes back to 2011, so  a “record high” is maybe more fairly described as an eight-year high. It’s certainly true that the figures we are seeing now, are amongst the highest in that eight year period.

Secondly,  knife crime is measured using police recorded crime data and so only reflects crimes that are reported and recorded, not total crime. So, it does not necessarily follow that the true level of crime across England and Wales has actually  increased. The data can be affected by targeted policing activity or campaigns and victims’ willingness to report crime.

The total number of homicides across the country fell by 5 per cent in the last year, from 719 to 681 offences. There has also been a 14 per cent decrease in homicides where a knife was involved, despite headlines at the end of 2018 suggesting otherwise. The drop, which has surprised many, appears to be mainly due to a fall in the number of deaths involving knives or bladed weapons in London. However, more worryingly from the Capitals perspective, the year ending June 2019 saw 32 per cent of all offences recorded by police involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales,  happened in London.

Some commentators suggest this is on the back of the Met Police recording 4,000 more searches for offensive weapons in 2018. Others suggest that it’s too simplistic to argue that that one has explicitly caused the other. They say that there were few overall changes in the number of total offences involving a knives or blades in London in the last year and there is little evidence that previous stop and search initiatives in the capital have had a positive effect on bringing down violent crime.

So we can’t say for sure what has caused the fall in the number of knife related deaths, but what we can say is that projections for 2019 look concerning and likely to create similar headlines of record or nine year highs in newspapers next year.

Posted by AskMe Admin