'High-harm' offences up as concerns mount over violent crime

Police have registered sharp increases in knife and gun crime amid mounting concern over spiralling levels of violence.

Official figures show forces in England and Wales also recorded rises in homicide and robbery last year.

In findings that will place the Government's efforts to make Britain's streets safer under the spotlight, statisticians reported that there had been an increase in "high-harm" violent offences.

Forces logged 39,598 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in 2017, a 22% increase compared with the previous year, and the highest number registered since comparable records started in 2010.

Offences involving firearms were also up, by 11% to 6,604 recorded crimes.

These offences tend to be disproportionately concentrated in London and other metropolitan areas, the Office for National Statistics said, but it added that the majority of police force areas saw rises in these types of violent crime.

The figures showed the number of homicides went up by 54, or 9%, to a total of 653, when cases linked to the Hillsborough disaster and last year's terror attacks were excluded.

In the overall category of "violence against the person", there were 1.3 million crimes logged, a rise of a fifth on the number in 2016.

Offences recorded by police involving a knife or sharp instrument
Offences recorded by police involving a knife or sharp instrument

Recorded burglary and robbery offences went up by 9% and 33% respectively, while the separate Crime Survey for England and Wales showed a 17% jump in vehicle thefts.

In total, police recorded 5.4 million offences, a 13% year-on-year rise.

According to the crime survey, which the ONS says is the most reliable indicator of long-term trends in the most common types of offending experienced by the general population, there were an estimated 10.6 million incidents of crime, a fall of 7% on the previous 12 months.

The number of violent offences as measured by the CSEW was unchanged, at 1.2million.

ONS statistician Alexa Bradley said: "Today's figures show that, for most types of offence, the picture of crime has been fairly stable, with levels much lower than the peak seen in the mid-1990s.

"Eight in 10 adults had not experienced any of the crimes asked about in our survey in the latest year.

"However, we have seen an increase in the relatively rare, but 'high-harm' violent offences such as homicide, knife crime and gun crime, a trend that has been emerging over the previous two years.

"We have also seen evidence that increases in some types of theft have continued, in particular vehicle-related theft and burglary."

Earlier this month Home Secretary Amber Rudd launched a multi-pronged strategy to tackle serious violence.

But the blueprint -unveiled against a backdrop of mounting calls for action following a flurry of killings in London - was overshadowed by a fresh row over police numbers.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: "These statistics show once again that crime, and violent crime in particular, is rising at an unacceptably high rate across the whole of England and Wales, including London.

"This is clearly a national problem that requires national solutions from the Government."