‘High harm’ violence on rise, crime figures show
The Office for National Statistics published data on offending in England and Wales.
Police-recorded crime in England and Wales has hit the highest level in more than a decade after killings, knife offences and robberies surged.
In the 12 months to March, forces logged 5.5 million crimes – a rise of a tenth (11%) compared with the previous year and the highest tally for an equivalent period since 2005/06.
It also emerged the proportion of recorded crimes that result in a charge or summons has fallen below one in 10, while officer numbers are the lowest in at least 22 years.
Excluding cases linked to terror attacks and the Hillsborough disaster, the number of recorded homicides increased by 12% in 2017/18, from 627 to 701.
Police registered 40,147 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument – a 16% rise and the highest number since the start of the decade.
Publishing the data, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said: “Over recent decades, we’ve seen a fall in overall levels of crime, a trend that now looks to be stabilising.”
In findings that will prompt renewed focus of police and Government efforts to tackle serious violence and other crime types, ONS and Home Office data also showed:
– A 30% surge in recorded robberies, which may reflect a “real change” as well as improvements in recording;
– Both police and the separate Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) registered increases in vehicle-related theft and burglary;
– The number of police officers in England and Wales was 122,404 at the end of March, the lowest number since comparable records started in 1996;
– Nearly half (48%) of investigations into recorded crimes were closed without a suspect being identified – a similar level to last year;
– The proportion of offences resulting in a charge or summons fell by two percentage points to 9%, while in a fifth of cases the victim did not support further action.
The ONS data bulletin draws on two main sources – offences recorded by police and the large-scale CSEW, which charts people’s experience of crime.
The survey gave an estimated total of 10.6 million incidents of crime over the same period, a 4% year-on-year fall.
Estimates of violent offending as measured by the CSEW were unchanged at around 1.3 million incidents.
Concern over serious violence intensified this year after a spate of fatal stabbings and shootings, with London in particular badly hit by bloodshed.
In the latest period, the number of recorded homicides – which includes murder, manslaughter and infanticide – showed a fourth consecutive rise.
In the year to March, there was a rise of almost a fifth (19%), to nearly 1.4 million, in the number of recorded “violence against the person” crimes – a broad category including murder, assault, harassment and stalking.
Alex Mayes, policy and public affairs adviser for charity Victim Support, said: “It’s truly shocking to see these rises in homicides and violent crime such as knife crime.
“While overall crime levels are generally stable, these increases in some high harm crimes are concerning. Too many lives are being shattered by these violent crimes.”
Elsewhere, the ONS said recent rises in burglary and robbery signal a change to the long-term downward trend, while crimes involving mopeds may have contributed to an increase in some types of theft.
Caroline Youell, of the ONS, said most people do not experience crime.
She said: “Today’s figures show a fairly stable picture in England and Wales for most crime types. It is too early to say if this is a change to the long-term declining trend.”
Che Donald, vice chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “These new figures are proof, as if we even needed it, that policing in the UK is on the critical list.”
Police minister Nick Hurd said: “The independent Office for National Statistics is clear that the likelihood of being a victim remains low, however, every violent crime is a significant concern and the Government is taking decisive action to tackle it.
“We recognise that crime is changing and that police demand is becoming increasingly complex.
“The statistics show that there has been a societal shift towards victims reporting ‘hidden’ crimes to the police and we welcome that more victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence are feeling empowered to come forward.”
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Crime Statistics, Chief Constable Bill Skelly, said:
“There are a range of factors affecting detection rates.
“Firstly police forces are improving the way they record crime, including crimes that have no suspect and little prospect of a criminal justice outcome.
“There are also significant rises in cases that are complex to investigate such as child sexual exploitation, abuse and online fraud.
“In many of these cases, multiple crimes are recorded which victims may not wish to take through to prosecution.
“Increased demand and fewer officer numbers have also had an impact. Police can use alternatives to prosecution like cautions or restorative justice.”