Police-recorded crime up as gun and knife offences rise

Surges in knife and gun offences have helped fuel a rise in police-recorded crime.

Figures showed forces in England and Wales logged a total of 5.3 million crimes in the year to the end of September 2017 - up by 14% on the previous 12 months.

This was the largest increase since the introduction of national crime recording regime in 2002/3.

As well as firearms and knife offences, there were also rises in recorded counts of burglary, sexual crimes, car theft and robbery.

But the Office for National Statistics urged caution when interpreting the figures, noting that its preferred measure - the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW)- showed a 10% fall.

Over the same 12-month period there were an estimated 10.6 million incidents of crime, according to the survey.

The ONS said police can only record crimes that are brought to their attention and for many types of offence the data cannot provide a reliable measure of levels or trends.

But while experts attribute much of the rise in the police data to changes in recording and improvements in victims' confidence in coming forward, there is also evidence that increases in some categories are "genuine".

ONS statistician Mark Bangs said: "These latest figures indicate that levels of crime have continued to fall compared with the previous year, but this picture varied across different types of crime and not all offence types showed falls.

"While overall levels of violent crime were not increasing, there is evidence of rises having occurred in some of the low incidence but more harmful categories such as knife and gun crime."

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Police recorded 37,443 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in the year ending September 2017 - a 21% increase compared with the previous year and the highest tally since comparable records started in the 12 months to March 2011.

The figures come at a time of mounting concern over knife violence, following a spate of fatal stabbings.

Gun-related crime also went up by a fifth year on year, to 6,694 recorded offences.

The ONS report said: "The occurrence of these offences tends to be disproportionately concentrated in London and other metropolitan areas.

"While it is possible that improved recording and more proactive policing has contributed to this rise, it is our judgment that there have also been genuine increases."

Forces logged a total of almost 1.3 million "violence against the person offences" from October 2016 to September 2017, a year-on-year rise of 20%.

This is a broad category including murder, assault, harassment and stalking.

Statisticians said the findings in this bracket as recorded by police were in contrast to a recent flat trend shown by the survey.

A raft of official data released on Thursday also showed:

- Police recorded year-on-year rises of in sexual offences (23%), robbery (29%) , vehicle-related theft (18%) and burglary (8%).

- One of the largest contributions to the decline in estimated crime from the CSEW was in fraud and computer misuse offences, where the first year-on-year comparisons showed a drop of 15%.

- The large majority of adults (8 in 10) had not been a victim of any of the crimes asked about in the survey in the previous 12 months.

- As of the end of September, there were 121,929 police officers across the 43 territorial forces in England and Wales - the lowest number since records started in 1996

Labour accused the Tories of "failing in a basic duty to protect the public".

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: "These figures are truly shocking and should put an end to Government complacency on crime."

Alex Mayes, of charity Victim Support, said: "Knife crime wrecks lives and shatters communities, and these figures are alarming."

Policing Minister Nick Hurd said the ONS "is clear that overall traditional crime is continuing to fall, and is now down by almost 40% since 2010".

But he acknowledged that "some of the increase in police-recorded violent offences is genuine".

Mr Hurd said the Government is taking "urgent action", pointing to tough new laws to crack down on acid attacks and knife crime and a new strategy to tackle serious violence.

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