Despite falling rates in previous years, there have been urgent calls to stop a ‘spiral of violence’ as knife crime in England and Wales increases to a new high.
Police recorded more than 44,000 offences involving a knife or a similar sharp object in the 12 months leading up to June 2019, showing an increase of 7% on the previous year. There also appeared to be an overall 80% increase from the low point in the year ending March 2014.
The ONS has said that recordings of crimes involving knifes and sharp instruments are at their highest since the year 2010-11. A spokesperson from the ONS commented on the record increase by saying:
“While overall levels of violence have remained steady, the number of offences involving a knife has continued to increase across England and Wales.
“However, the number of homicides where a knife or sharp instrument was involved decreased, driven by falls in London.
“There is a mixed picture in the total number of knife crime offences across police forces with the Metropolitan Police recording little change in the last year.”
What crimes are being committed?
Not all crimes using knifes are exactly the same, some are robberies, while many are linked to attempts to cause grievous bodily harm to another person. Almost half of the crimes committed using a knife were stabbings, around 43% were robberies, and approximately 46% of the crimes committed were assault, rape or sexual assault. Overall there were 235 knife murders in the year leading up to June, with 412 attempted murders.
However, despite increasing knife crime, the number of violent crimes committed in the UK overall are committed without a weapon. A chart from the ONS showed that crimes involving a knife or sharp object made up 6% of crimes, while 79% didn’t involve a weapon.
Who is being most affected by the rise in knife crime?
Those most affected by knife crime have mainly been young people from inner-city areas. Chief Executive of Barnados, Javed Khan said:
“Too many young people are suffering a ‘poverty of hope’, and facing a future with no qualifications, no job prospects, and no role models, making them vulnerable to criminal gangs who force them to deliver drugs and carry knives.”
A chart taken from NHS Digital by the BBC also showed a significant increase in the number of hospital admissions for knife crime, with many of the numbers involving those aged 18 and under. Although a much higher number of admissions referred to those who were aged 19 or above, around 700-800 involved a minor. Overall the NHS in England recorded an 8% increase in admissions for knife-related injuries in the past year.
What has been the main cause of the increase?
Although there has been no proven direct link to the increase in knife crime, there are increasing suspicions that cuts to policing made by the Conservative government is one of the principal reasons. Since 2010, police numbers have decreased by around 20,000.
Former Prime Minister and Home Secretary Theresa May has previously stated that there is “no direct correlation” between decreased police numbers and the rise in knife crime. However, more recently Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Home Affairs Committee commented on the recent figures saying that the current government has “not yet got a grip on this crisis that is devastating families and communities in cities and towns across the country” and there “is an urgent need for a more comprehensive strategy”. Further to this, police departments across England and Wales have been voicing problems for several years. The Police Federation said that police officers were “struggling to deliver basics in policing” as a result of cuts and rising demand. Chair of the Federation, John Apter said “Chiefs are having to make some difficult decisions over which services need to be reined back in”.
What is being done to diminish the problem?
Since becoming Prime Minister in July, Boris Johnson has promised more funding to the police, as well as a target of increasing the number of officers by 20,000. During the recent Queen’s Speech, tackling violent crime was made a priority. However, the Police Federation have said although the increase of officers and funds were welcome the effects would “not be felt for some time”.
Kit Malthouse, the Policing Minister, told the Independent that he was “deeply concerned” by the recent increase.
He continued to state:
“With 20,000 more police officers in the pipeline and urgent action on a number of fronts, not least drug dealing county lines, we are making progress, “ he added. “But there is a lot more to do and we have to get smarter and more focused.
“It’s also vital that we divert young people away from committing crime in the first place, which is why we are investing over £220m into early intervention projects and placing a duty on public bodies to work together to tackle youth violence. “