Knife crime reaches new high, police figures show

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Knife crime in England and Wales has increased again, according to the latest figures from police forces.

In the 12 months to the end of June 2019, knife crime offences rose by 7%, reaching a record high.

But the picture on knife crime is mixed - with a fall in the number of homicides related to knife crime.

The data, from the Office for National Statistics, also found a 11% rise in the number of recorded robberies, while fraud offences went up by 15%.

According to the ONS, which published its latest figures on Thursday, the number of offences involving a knife or sharp instrument increased from just over 41,000 in the year to June 2018 to just over 44,000 in the last 12 months.

The knife crime figures do not include Greater Manchester Police, because of a previous problem with their recording methods.

It marks a new record level since 2011, the year that knife crime statistics started to be gathered in a unified way.

But the ONS added: "The number of homicides where a knife or sharp instrument was involved decreased by 14%.

"This decrease was mainly driven by falls in London.

"There is a mixed picture in the total number of offences involving knifes or sharp instruments across different police force areas, with the Metropolitan Police recording little change in the last year."

The total number of homicides recorded by the police also fell by 5% in the last year, from 719 to 681 offences.

More bank and credit account fraud

Meanwhile, a separate Crime Survey for England and Wales, which includes offences that are not reported to police, indicated a continuing rise in fraud.

The survey's latest estimates show a 15% increase in fraud offences, driven by a 17% rise in "bank and credit account fraud".

It said there were 3,863,000 fraud offences in the year to June.

Almost 2.7m of those were bank and credit account fraud offences, up from 2.3m the previous year.

But the survey, which measures people's experience of crime, found fewer than one in six incidents of fraud were reported by the victim to the police or Action Fraud in the last 12 months ending March 2019.

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On the positive side, there are signs the surge in knife crime may be slowing.

The rate of increase is half what it was a year ago; the Metropolitan Police, which accounts for a third of the total, recorded only 17 more offences; and there were were 39 fewer fatal stabbings than in the previous 12 months.

However, there is still a long way to go - as shown by a continuing rise in the number of knifepoint rapes, robberies and assaults logged by forces.

Arguably of greater significance are figures which show a steep downward trend in crimes that are solved.

The way the data was compiled changed in 2015.

Then, 15.5% of cases resulted in a suspect being charged or brought to court.

Now, it's 7.4%. The key reason for the slump in detections appears to be that victims are increasingly unwilling to support prosecutions: it means more offenders escape justice, free to commit more crimes.

Where do crime figures come from?

The ONS figures include two sources of data: Home Office statistics about crimes recorded by police; and also the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which asks people about their experiences of crime.

On its own, police recorded crime is not seen as a complete picture of crime in England and Wales.

The crime survey provides an estimate of crimes that may either have not been recorded by police or may never have been reported to them in the first place.

The crime survey selects about 50,000 households at random from the Royal Mail's list of addresses.

Meanwhile, separately, other Home Office data shows the number of crimes solved across England and Wales has fallen to another record low.

Figures show just 7.4% of crimes in the 12 months to the end of June resulted in a suspect being charged or ordered to appear in court.

The previous year the figure was 8.7%, and the figure in the 12 months to March 2019 was 7.8%.

Responding to Thursday's statistics, Merseyside Police Chief Constable Andy Cooke, of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said the figures were a "symptom of the strain on policing as we try to manage growing crime, and demand that is ever more complex".

Meanwhile, the government's crime, policing and fire minister Kit Malthouse said he was "deeply concerned" at the rise of certain crimes, particularly knife crime.

"All of us involved, from the police to local and national government, must confront this challenge head on," he said, adding that the government was "making progress...but there is a lot more to do".

"It's also vital that we divert young people away from committing crime in the first place, which is why we are investing over £220 million into early intervention projects and placing a duty on public bodies to work together to tackle youth violence," he said.