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Keeping a weather eye on the crime stats

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Mark Easton | 01:43 UK time, Friday, 23 January 2009

Does rain explain the latest jump in recorded robberies at knifepoint?

The official statistics show an 18% rise in such offences in England and Wales - widely reported as evidence of the "epidemic" in knife crime.

But could the increase have more to do with the weather?

I know what you are thinking: it's Easton on one of his hobby-horses. But bear with me.

The first thing to say is that looking at raw numbers, there were roughly 700 more robberies conducted with knives in July to September last year compared with the same period in 2007.

But overall robbery was down by 500, so there must have been 1,200 fewer robberies of other kinds - those involving firearms, baseball bats or the threat of physical attack.

That strikes me as worth mentioning - after all, being robbed at gunpoint is probably just as traumatic as facing a blade.

The 18% reflects the difference in knife robberies in the late summer of 2008 compared with 2007. But what if we look at the months around those two quarters?

The Home Office has kindly sent me figures and they show that in each 90-day period from April 2007, there were roughly 4,000 to 4,300 robberies involving a knife or sharp instrument. A pretty flat picture - except for one quarter.

In July to September 2007 there were just 3,500, an unusually low figure that one might attribute to one of the wettest summers on record.

table indicating Knife and sharp instrument offences, quarterly comparison and proportions of all offences, by offence type

People didn't fight each other so much, perhaps, because they were staying out of the rain. I can't be sure, but it could be that the big jump has less to do with criminology and more to do with meteorology.

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