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Knife Crime in England and Wales – what the key figures are telling us

Knife Crime in England and Wales – what the key figures are telling us

How big is the problem?

Gun and knife crime both rose last year according to Home Office figures.

How significant are these headline figures?

The number of offences involving knives recorded by police in England and Wales in 2019 was the highest on record, official statistics show, with big cities driving up the numbers.

The latest figures to 31st December 2019, show that there were 45,627 offences involving knives or sharp instruments recorded by police in 2019, a 7% rise year on year, and 49% higher than 2011 when comparable records began. Out of the 44 police forces, 43 recorded a rise in knife crime since 2011.

Where are we seeing knife offending?

The evidence suggests that most knife carrying, and offending takes place in our metropolitan cities but knife related incidents have increased in our rural areas too over the last decade. Kent reported a 152% rise in knife related incidents between 2010 and 2018. Over the same period, knife related offences have increased 89% in Hertfordshire and 43% in Essex (O.N.S). County Lines drug dealing has contributed to these rises, exporting gang and knife crime out of the cities as runners and dealers carry knives to control or defend their line.

Whats the cost?

Hospital admissions for knife related injuries are up four years in a row – with Doctors reporting injuries becoming more severe, victims getting younger and increasing numbers of victims are now girls/young women.

In the twelve months to March 2019, 72% of those caught carrying knives were first time offenders.

25% of victims were male, aged 18-24 years.

25% were killed by acquaintances, 25% were killed by total strangers.

25% were identified as people from a BME background; the highest proportion of BME victims since recording of this data started in 1997.

Suspects are also mainly young men, aged 16-24 years.

“While not all of these relate to county lines or drug dealing activity, data are suggestive of younger people and people of colour increasingly becoming victims”.  (Simon Harding, ‘County Lines: Exploitation and drug dealing in urban street gangs’, 2020)

The true cost for families and communities cannot be measured.

How is knife offending being treated by the police and courts?

Sentences for violent offenders have been getting tougher, particularly for knife crime. The average prison term for those jailed for carrying a knife or other offensive weapon has gone up from almost five months to well over eight months, with 85% serving at least three months, compared with 53% only 10 years ago. 

Who is carrying and using knives?

20% of knife offences recorded, were committed by young people under the age of 18. In the year to March 2019, 22,041 people were cautioned, reprimanded, or convicted for carrying a knife in England and Wales; 451 of them were under the age of 18.

Why are so many young people carrying knives?

The problem is still overwhelmingly a young male one, with more young men now carrying knives to maintain their “street capital” as part of gang life or to defend themselves against retaliation from rival gangs or reprisals issued by their own gang elders. Increased knife carrying generally leads to non-gang affiliated young men now feeling unsafe on the streets and arming themselves in self-defence.

What are the solutions?

Effective enforcement action taken by the police and social services teams can only go so far. Cities who have seen and tackled similar trends and activity in the past have adopted a more joined-up approach, often referred to as ‘a public health approach’. This approach sees police and criminal justice agencies, health providers, schools, community, and voluntary organisations work more effectively to provide well-timed support to those affected, or at risk of becoming affected, by knife carrying and knife crime.

A young person is more likely to carry a knife if you have witnessed violence or been a victim of violence.  According to the Metropolitan Police data, 72% of homicide suspects were previously victims of crime, and 26% victims of knife crime

Working alongside the authorities to tackle the rise in gang and county lines activity, it is the responsibility of the whole community to:

  • understand the scale of the knife crime problem.
  • understand why knife offending is on the increase and why young people feel compelled into knife carrying.
  • Engage with and educate young people on the risks of knife carrying – a young person carrying a knife is far more likely to be a victim of knife crime, than someone who doesn’t.
  • build a safer environment where young people don’t ‘need’ to arm themselves in the first place.

Resilience Programme – Together. Safer. Stronger.