Murder rate rises by 14 per cent as violence continues to escalate

There has been a rise in violence in all police force areas, ranging from one per cent in violence against the person offences in West Mercia to 63 per cent in Lancashire, according to the latest crime figures. 

Jan 28, 2019
By Neil Root
Chief Constable Bill Skelly

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) crime statistics for England and Wales have revealed that the number of homicides has risen significantly, with knife crime offences also increasing. 

The figures, released on Thursday (January 24), show overall levels of crime have fallen continuously in recent decades, but in the year to September 2018 there was no change, although there have been decreases in computer misuse, burglary and shoplifting. 

But there here has been a rise in vehicle offences, robbery, and some lower-volume but higher-harm types of violence. 

Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) chair John Apter called the figures “a terrifying picture for our communities whose lives are being blighted by violent crime on a daily basis”. 

Mr Apter added that “society just isn’t as safe as it once was, and although the police service is doing everything within its power, we are swimming against the tide, and it is the public who are being let down”. 

Chief Constable Bill Skelly, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for crime recording and statistics, said there are real rises in serious crimes like robbery and violence with weapons, with a devastating impact on victims and families. 

But Mr Skelly also stressed that changes to how police record crime and increased reporting explain some of the increases in police recorded crime in England and Wales. 

The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APPC) deputy performance lead, Humberside police and crime commissioner (PCC) Keith Hunter, said: “Today’s figures, once again, show a worrying increase in serious violence offences – including knife crime and homicides.”  

The statistics were compiled from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) and police recorded crime data. 

The ONS says in the report that the CSEW “provides the best overview of long-term changes in theft offences, with the latest estimates showing no significant change”.  

It also points out that an increase in the number of crimes recorded by the police does not necessarily mean that the level of crime has increased, and police recorded crime statistics “do not provide a reliable measure of levels or trends in crime as they only cover crimes that come to the attention of the police”. 

Police recorded data can identify short-term changes in specific crimes that are “thought to be well-reported and accurately recorded”, the ONS said. 

This includes rises in many types of theft offences, but “the latest figures show a mixed picture”. 

For example, there has been a three per cent rise in vehicle offences, mainly due to a ten per cent increase in the subcategory of “Theft or unauthorised taking of a motor vehicle”. 

There has also been an eight per cent increase in the number of police recorded offences involving knives or sharp instruments, which is supported by statistics that show a 15 per cent increase in the number of admissions to hospital in England for assaults involving a sharp instrument. 

But the number of police recorded offences involving firearms has fallen by four per cent – a reversal of increases seen in recent years – (to 6,424) compared to 6,706 offences in the previous year. 

Conversely, there has been a 17 per cent rise in robbery offences and a 24 per cent increase in police recorded public order offences. 

There were also one per cent decreases in burglary and shoplifting, the number of which had been on the rise over recent years. 

However, the CSEW estimates that computer misuse offences have decreased by a third (33 per cent), a fall of 501,000 to one million offences. 

Homicides have increased over the past four years following a long-term downward trend and this excludes exceptional events with multiple victims. The 14 per cent increase in the number of homicides (from 649 to 739) also excludes the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, which occurred in the previous year.  

And around four in ten (37 per cent) of recorded homicides in the latest recorded data for the year ending September 2018 involved a knife or sharp instrument. 

The eight per cent rise in the number of police recorded offences involving knives or sharp instruments (to 39,818) shows a pattern of increase over the past four years. 

This figure excludes Greater Manchester Police (GMP) statistics, as a review of GMP data has identified undercounting of crimes involving a knife or sharp instrument. 

And Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire police forces have introduced new crime recording systems for offences involving the use of a knife or sharp instrument, so “data for the latest year may be under-recorded”. 

Police data also shows that 89 per cent of all offences involving a knife or sharp instrument were robberies or violent assaults, with 35 per cent taking place in London. The Metropolitan Police Service area saw 168 offences per 100,000 people. 

The highest rates after London were seen in West Yorkshire (118 offences per 100,000 people), Greater Manchester (112 per 100,000 people) and the West Midlands (107 per 100,000 people).  

But the CSEW estimates that overall violent offences have remained static at 1,389,000 offences. 

However, the “violence without injury” subcategory specifically accounted for 41 per cent of all violent crime recorded by the police and showed a higher increase in the latest year, up 19 per cent to 638,894 offences, than the “violence with injury” subcategory, up eight per cent to 533,248 offences. 

Stalking and harassment offences increased significantly by 41 per cent, accounting for 43 per cent of the violence without injury offences increase, but it is likely that this was largely due to improvements in recording, especially in relation to malicious communication offences. 

Police recorded sexual offences are at their highest volume since the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard in 2002. 

A rise in sexual offences against children contributed around 20 per cent to the total increase and in the number of sexual offences recorded by the police. 

And the number of rape offences increased by 16 per cent to 59,698 offences, while other sexual offences rose by 13 per cent to 101, 464 offences, Robbery offences continue to increase, and in the past year have gone up by 17 per cent to 80,947 and offences in London accounted for 41 per cent of all recorded robberies.  

Added to this, police recorded public order offences rose by almost a quarter (24 per cent) to 427,134 crimes. 

The sizeable decrease in computer misuse offences, down a third to 1,004,000 is estimated by the CSEW. It says this fall was largely due to a drop in “computer viruses”, which were down 45 per cent to 534,000 offences in the last year. 

By force area, Lancashire had the biggest rise in total recorded crime (excluding fraud offences) with a 32 per cent increase, followed by Kent on 28 per cent and Cumbria with a 27 per cent increase. 

A number of forces had a decrease in total recorded crime, with Avon and Somerset seeing a three per cent fall, West Mercia a two per cent decrease and Wiltshire and Warwickshire both falling by one per cent. 

Lancashire also saw the largest increase by far (63 per cent) in violence against the person offences, followed by Cumbria on 48 per cent and Lincolnshire on 44 per cent. 

The lowest violence against the person increases were recorded in Warwickshire and Wiltshire, both seeing three per cent rises, with West Mercia experiencing the lowest increase with one per cent. 

Mr Skelly said that while changes to how police record crime and increased reporting explain some of the increases in police recorded crime in England and Wales, there are real rises in serious crimes like robbery and violence with weapons, with a devastating impact on victims and families. 

He added that the ONS is right to remind us to keep the figures in perspective as statistically very few people experience crime, particularly violent crime.  

But he highlighted that the statistics show an increase in violent crime and those being in possession of an offensive weapon, which police forces are committed to tackling using many tactics like the Operation Sceptre national day of action on knife crime and the NPCC’s work with local NHS Trusts and A&E units which are showing success.  

Mr Skelly confirmed that the NPCC will continue to work with the Home Office and other partners to deal with growing violent crime because this is not something that can be solved by policing alone. 

Mr Skelly said: “Rising crime, increased terrorist activity and fewer police officers have put serious strain on the policing we offer to the public. We are determining the additional capabilities and investment we need to drive down violence and catch more criminals – and we will make the case at the next government spending review.  Equally important is driving up productivity and cutting any remaining inefficiencies.” 

Policing Minister Nick Hurd pointed out that your chance of being a victim of crime remains low, but accepted that certain crimes, particularly violent crime, have increased and everything possible is being done to reverse that trend. 

He added that the Government has listened to police’s concerns about rising demand and have proposed the biggest increase in police funding since 2010, and he is confident the new settlement, which delivers up to £970 million of additional public investment into policing in 2019/20, will help the police continue to recruit more officers.  

He also said that crime prevention is also crucial, and this is why the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy emphasises intervening early and is working to prevent young people from being drawn into a life of crime. 

APCC performance lead police and crime commissioner PCC Matthew Scott said that the latest data shows statistical rises in recorded crime, but this is partly down to the fact that independent inspectors have previously called on police forces to improve the way they record crime.  

He added that with additional crimes going on the books, more victims are safe in the knowledge that an offence has been recorded and are better supported as a result, but recorded crime data can only show part of the picture and all PCC’s “have their own mechanisms in place to hold their chief constables to account and to measure performance”.  

Mr Hunter said: “Today’s figures, once again, show a worrying increase in serious violence offences – including knife crime and homicides. PCCs are engaged with partners locally and nationally to tackle this issue, developing early intervention and prevention models to tackle the root causes of violent crime, with a focus on young people.  

“Increases in some crime types, including sexual offences, are likely to, in part, reflect the fact that more victims are more willing to coming forward and crime recording practices have improved, which is to be welcomed.  

“The demand on the service is increasing as is the complexity of the cases forces deal with, and we will continue our work with the NPCC and the Home Office ahead of the comprehensive spending review (CSR) to ensure that we get the right long-term sustainable deal for policing.” 

Mr Apter said: “The murder toll has increased from 649 deaths last year to 739, an annual increase for the fourth consecutive year. This represents thousands of families and friends grieving all over the UK. The NHS says that hospital admissions in England alone from knife-related offences soared to 4,986 over the past 12 months. 

“This is a terrifying picture for our communities whose lives are being blighted by violent crime on a daily basis. Yet we have a government whose own Violent Crime Strategy omitted to mention that the number of police officers has plummeted by around 22,000 since 2010, 80 per cent from the front line. This is not a coincidence; we need more boots on the ground to help combat this epidemic. 

“This isn’t a cause for celebration. This is a miniscule increase and this report does not include data about those leaving the service and does not undo the damage caused by the reduction of the thousands of officers we have lost over the last eight years. 

“I would be interested to see if this minute upwards trend continues; I suspect it is merely a blip and, in any case, it is not enough to compete with the increasing rate of violent crime. Tackling this level of violence needs an immediate re-think and we sincerely want to work with government to help turn this around.” 

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