Violent crime rising in England and Wales, police figures show

Data reveals ‘small but genuine’ rise in gun and knife offences but overall increase reflects changes in recording practices

There have been “small but genuine” increases in murder and other violent crimes, including 13-14% increases in gun and knife crime in 2016, according to the latest police-recorded crime figures.

The Office for National Statistics said the police data showed a 9% rise in overall crime in 2016, but that had to be viewed alongside the more authoritative crime survey of England and Wales, which showed an apparent 5% fall over the same period. These figures do, however, show an increase in violent crime, with a 10% rise in robberies, a 35% increase in public order offences and a 12% rise in sexual offences, including rapes.

The English and Welsh police figures include an apparently alarming 21% rise in the number of murders, up 121 to 697, but the figures include 96 cases of manslaughter at Hillsborough in 1989. Once those are excluded the increase is much lower, at 4%.

The police data also shows a 19% rise in offences involving violence against the person, but the statisticians say 40% of the increase is accounted for by the inclusion of certain types of harassment offences for the first time.

Gun and knife crime

The ONS says the police figures show “small but genuine increases in some types of high-harm but small-volume violent crime”. They include a 13% increase in gun crime to 5,864 incidents, driven by greater criminal use of handguns and shotguns. These figures are confirmed by ambulance response records.

The police figures also show a similar 14% rise in knife crime, with improvements in police-recording practices contributing to the increase.

“There were also small increases in some offences where recording practices are less likely to have been a driving factor,” the ONS said. “For example, it is likely that recent rises in burglary and robbery reflect some genuine increases in crime. However, these recent increases should be seen in the context of substantial falls in such crime over the longer-term.”

The crime survey of England and Wales, based on the public’s experiences, estimated there were 6.1m offences in 2016 – a fall of 5% from the previous year.

There were a further 11.5m offences of fraud, online crime and computer misuses in 2016, which experimental statistics suggest is rising.

“The police recorded a total of 4.8m offences in the year ending December 2016, an annual rise of 9%. However, the large volume increases driving this trend are thought to reflect changes in recording processes and practices rather than crime,” the statisticians said.

Trends in violent crime in England and Wales

Both surveys showed continuing large declines in domestic burglary (down 7%), car theft (9%) and bicycle thefts (10%).

Ch Con Bill Skelly, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said the figures showed total levels of crime were broadly stable compared with recent years. Police forces continued to see increases driven by better recording procedures and improved victim confidence in coming forward to report crimes such as domestic violence and non-recent sexual abuse.

“There are some genuine increases that police forces across the country are responding to, particularly with regard to 14% rise in knife crime and 13% increase in firearms offences. The trend, which had been declining for many years but has now begun to climb more sharply, is a key priority for the police service. Forces will continue to target habitual offenders and conduct wide-ranging proactive operations to seize thousands of illegal weapons before they can be used to cause harm,” Skelly said.

“The experimental statistics also highlight the complex picture around fraud and computer misuse, with significant increases and an estimated 5.4m incidents occurring in the past 12 months. Police forces are working with partners locally and nationally to strengthen people’s defences against online crime and develop new tactics and capabilities for digital policing to tackle the cyber threat.”


Alan Travis Home affairs editor

The GuardianTramp

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