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Knife crime incidents hit record level

Police-recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument rose to 45,627 last year.

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Police-recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument rose to 45,627 for the year to December, new ONS figures show (Posed by model/Andrew Matthews/PA)

Police-recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument rose to 45,627 for the year to December, new ONS figures show (Posed by model/Andrew Matthews/PA)

Police-recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument rose to 45,627 for the year to December, new ONS figures show (Posed by model/Andrew Matthews/PA)

The number of knife crimes in England and Wales was the highest on record last year, up 7% on the previous 12 months.

Police-recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument rose to 45,627 for the year to December from 42,555 in 2018, figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday showed.

This was 49% higher than when data of this kind was first collected in the year to March 2011, and is the highest number on record.

The number of such offences rose 13% in the West Midlands and by 5% in London, but dropped 9% in West Yorkshire – the three areas of the country with the highest rate per 100,000 population.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

The report said: “Knife or sharp instrument offences continue to be concentrated in metropolitan areas across England and Wales, with around a third (34%) of all offences recorded by the police in London.”

The rising trend in knife crimes could be driven by an increase in robberies, the ONS suggested, after the number soared 12% to 83,930 from 75,022 in 2018.

The number of homicides rose by 2% to 670, up from 655.

The total includes the bodies of the 39 Vietnamese people found in a lorry in Grays, Essex, in October. Excluding this, the number would have fallen by 4%, the ONS said.

The figures also show a 15% rise of homicides recorded by the Metropolitan Police in the last year – to 146 from 127.

Of all recorded homicides last year, 40% involved a knife or sharp instrument, a similar proportion to 2018, according to the data.

Burglary was down 7% to 366,718, and recorded firearms offences also fell by 3% from 6,243 to 6,060.

Police recorded 5.8 million crimes in England and Wales last year, the ONS said, adding that the overall level of crime has remained “broadly stable”.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

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(PA Graphics)

The figures do not include Greater Manchester Police, which is unable to provide data due to ongoing problems with a new computer system.

Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, called for a “comprehensive national strategy from Government”, adding: “As the committee has warned, the police have been too heavily overstretched for some years and we need more police officers.

“But we also need a comprehensive prevention programme in place with leadership from the Home Office.”

Diana Fawcett, chief executive of the charity Victim Support, voiced concern over the knife crime figures, adding: “Although the streets are quieter, the impact of knife crime is still being felt.

“Many victims will still be dealing with the emotional consequences of threats or attacks which took place long ago.”

Last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he would lead a new Cabinet committee looking at ways to tackle crime.

He also told ministers that every department should consider itself a criminal justice department as part of a drive to look at the “complex causes of crime” which would involve long-term reforms to improve health, social care, youth services and education.

On Thursday Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “I think the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have both been very clear about the importance they place on tackling knife crime and that’s why we’ve given more powers and more resources.

“It’s very clear that there’s more to be done to crack down on thugs carrying knives and ensuring they are properly punished.”

PA