7% rise in knifepoint robberies
Knifepoint robberies rose by 7% in the last year as thieves targeted mobile phones which can be sold for up to double their value on the black market abroad, police chiefs have said.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said the rise in robberies was a "cause for concern", while the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, warned the Government must reconsider its cuts to police budgets.
The latest figures showed that the easing of the falling levels of overall crime has continued after sustained reductions since the mid-1990s.
Police forces in England and Wales recorded 14,980 robberies involving knives in the 12 months to June, up from 13,994 the previous year.
Chief Constable Jon Murphy, the Acpo lead on crime, said: "While there were falls in most police-recorded crime and particularly in violence against the person, the increase in robbery and robbery with knives is a cause for concern. We believe this is in part driven by demand for mobile phone handsets, which can fetch more than double their worth on the black market abroad."
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, said the figures were no surprise and "paint a bleak picture".
"We have warned again and again that property crime and robbery will rise during times of economic hardship," he said. "The Government simply must heed the warnings and reconsider the planned 20% cuts to policing."
Along with the rise in the number of robberies involving knives, the overall number of robberies also rose by 3%, up to 76,786 from 74,887, the figures showed. But the number of victims killed with knives remained broadly the same at 205, compared with 206 the previous year, and the number of attempted murders with knives fell to 209 from 229.
And overall, the number of crimes recorded by police fell 4% over the last 12 months to 4.1 million in the year to June, down from 4.3 million in the previous 12 months. Other figures, from the British Crime Survey (BCS), showed the number of burglaries rose 10%, up from 678,000 to 743,000, but officials said this was not statistically significant.
Policing and criminal justice minister Nick Herbert said: "While the British Crime Survey is stable, and overall crime recorded by the police is falling, there are particular types of crime that some forces need to address. That's why we have swept away central targets and red tape to help police forces focus on their one core mission: to cut crime."