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‘Deeply concerning’ spike in knife and gun crime

POLICE have registered sharp increases in knife and gun crime, official figures have revealed — fuelling fresh concern over spiralling levels of violence.

Forces in England and Wales also recorded rises in homicide and robbery last year as statisticians warned ‘high-harm’ offences were on the rise.

The findings prompted scrutiny of the government’s efforts to make Britain’s streets safer, while Labour seized on the data to pile fresh pressure on Home Secretary Amber Rudd after she faced calls to resign over the Windrush scandal.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for crime statistics Bill Skelly said: ‘While the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), which is based on people’s experience of crime, indicates that crime is falling overall, police data shows that violent crime and the associated homicides, car crime and theft are all increasing significantly.

‘These rises are genuine and deeply concerning, but the public should be assured we are doing everything we can to bring them down and keep the public safe.’

Ministers said overall levels of crime are stable but acknowledged some of the rise in police-recorded violence is genuine.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics showed forces logged 39,598 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in 2017, a 22per cent increase compared with the previous year, and the highest number registered since comparable records started in 2010.

Firearms-related offences were also up, by 11per cent, to 6,604 recorded crimes.

These offences tend to be disproportionately concentrated in London and other metropolitan areas, the ONS said, but it added that the majority of police force areas saw rises in these types of violent crime.

Homicide was up by 54, or 9per cent, to a total of 653, when cases linked to the Hillsborough disaster and last year’s terror attacks were excluded.

In the overall category of ‘violence against the person’, there were 1.3million crimes logged, a rise of a fifth on the number in 2016.

Recorded burglary and robbery offences went up by 9per cent and 33per cent respectively, while the separate CSEW showed a 17per cent jump in vehicle thefts.

There was also a 25per cent rise in the number of recorded sexual offences, with 145,397 registered last year.

In total, police recorded 5.4million offences, a 13per cent year-on-year rise.

According to the crime survey, which the ONS says is the most reliable indicator of long-term trends in the most common types of offending experienced by the general population, there were an estimated 10.6million incidents of crime, a fall of 7per cent on the previous 12 months.

The number of violent offences as measured by the CSEW was unchanged, at 1.2 million.

ONS statistician Alexa Bradley said: ‘Today’s figures show that, for most types of offence, the picture of crime has been fairly stable, with levels much lower than the peak seen in the mid-1990s.

‘Eight in 10 adults had not experienced any of the crimes asked about in our survey in the latest year.

‘However, we have seen an increase in the relatively rare, but “high-harm” violent offences such as homicide, knife crime and gun crime, a trend that has been emerging over the previous two years.’

Earlier this month, Ms Rudd launched a multi-pronged strategy to tackle serious violence.

But the blueprint — unveiled against a backdrop of mounting calls for action following a flurry of killings in London — was overshadowed by a fresh row over police officer numbers, with Labour accusing the Tories of ‘creating the conditions for crime to thrive’.

Shadow policing minister Louise Haigh said: ‘The Home Secretary has comprehensively failed to protect the public.

‘Whether it’s Windrush citizens or victims of violent crime, the Home Secretary has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the evidence staring her in the face.’

Police minister Nick Hurd said overall levels of crime are stable, with traditional crime over a third lower than it was in 2010.

He added: ‘But we know that some of the increase in police-recorded violent offences is genuine, which is why we have taken urgent action to stop these crimes.’

Separate figures show that last year 47per cent of investigations into recorded offences concluded without a suspect being identified, down slightly on 2016.