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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.
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Evidence that gangs aren’t taking lockdown, lying down

A month ago, headlines claimed “Gang life ‘has stopped’ because of COVID-19” ; warning police forces to expect gang operations and violence to resume again once the lockdown measures are lifted. But a steady number of ultra-violent attacks continue to be reported in inner cities and newspaper headlines now report novel new ways that gangs are finding to deal drugs.

And we shouldn’t be surprised. UK street gangs have shown in the last 15 years an ability to evolve and innovate the way they do business. The 2,200 county lines that exist in England and Wales, where inner city gangs export drugs to rural areas using young people as dealers, are testament to that.

Gang life is constantly evolving. Gang members have to adapt to new threats posed by competitors and to be highly flexible to manage the tensions created by increased competition within the gang itself. Gang elders are constantly re-evaluating their strategies and local connections to keep their business models viable. In the recent past, gangs have started to recruit young girls and women to hide weapons, drugs, and money as they are able to maintain lower profiles and effectively say off radar.  Gangs have started to coerce local children and rural addicts who are more likely to blend into town and village life, while trading drugs.

So, it is no surprise that gangs are posing as joggers and food delivery drivers in order to trade in lockdown. More sinister is the ability to clone NHS staff passes allowing gang members to pass themselves off as essential workers, evidenced by an increase in reported robberies and muggings of NHS workers coming off shift early in lockdown. Gangs have found a way of moving freely around our major cities at a time when most are staying at home.

And there is evidence that gang members are changing their tactics to avoid infection by doing letterbox drops or “drive-by sales” and throwing drugs from car windows after arranging deals by phone or online. “Money is also being tossed on the back seat during the deals to keep items clean” reports Professor Harding, director of the National Centre for Gang Research (NCGR) at the University of West London.

The impact is being felt by those in lockdown. Services like the ‘Ask Us About Gangs’ Programme in Waltham Forest, part of the borough’s violence reduction partnership, has seen an increase in contact from parents struggling to keep gang-connected children at home or to handle their child’s increased recreational drug use in the home and facing an increase in violence as their child reacts. The scheme’s volunteers are also hearing from young people who are under pressure from gangs to continue running drugs to areas of the borough where dealing is still taking place.

Those in the frontline of gang and violence reduction cannot afford to furlough their crucial work at the current time and critically, why funding for gang and violence reduction initiatives must continue when coronavirus is on the backfoot and governments start to assess the cost of staying home, protecting the NHS and saving lives.

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We cannot lose sight of the other epidemic we were fighting before coronavirus – knife crime.

And here’s why.

Knife and drug crime statistics released in the last few days paint very different pictures of the impact of serious youth violence and knife crime, in and out of lockdown.

The coronavirus lockdown has inevitably caused knife crime in England and Wales to fall dramatically, particularly in London. According to figures published this week by the Metropolitan Police, crime is down 14% across the board since the start of 2020, with knife crime seeing one of the biggest drops – falling by more than 25% since January.

This significant drop must be due to the unprecedented situation we are currently in. The government’s lockdown provisions to help control the spread of the virus are also effectively controlling the spread of gang and county lines beefs that are behind many of the violence statistics in England and Wales.

London’s street gangs have become entrepreneurial and evolved their business models

Others, aware of how London’s street gangs have become entrepreneurial and evolved their business models in recent years, think other factors may be contributing in part to the latest figures. For example, young people engaging with the Ask Me About Gangs Outreach programme based in Waltham Forest and part of the borough council’s gang prevention programme,  have reported a slowdown in drug and county lines activity as dealers are finding their movements are far more visible now than before. However, the evidence suggests dealers may be switching to promoting drugs online, using social media, backed by postal or delivery services, far less likely to be detected by enforcement authorities. Some of the young people engaging with Ask Me’s Community Volunteers are worried that this increase in social media gang rivalry, will in turn fuel an increase in violence when life returns to a degree of normality and gang elders take revenge for ‘disrespect’ aimed at them during lockdown.

The National Crime Agency estimated in 2019 that there were approximately 2,200 county lines in operation across the UK exporting drugs and violent crime beyond metropolitan cities to areas that have not previously affected by them.

The latest statistics published by the Office for National Statistics for 2019, capturing data to the end of December 2019, show the extent of the problem prior to lockdown with crime in England and Wales increasing to a new record high with the highest since knife crime levels recorded since statistics were first collected in 2010-11. The number of knife related offences has increased by more than 20,000 in five years, with London now accounting for a third of them. A worrying rise in knifepoint robberies which have doubled in four years, combined with stabbings linked to increased knife carrying among young people and gang activity, account for 40,000 offences last year.

The challenge for police and communities when people return to the streets will be to ensure the numbers do not return to the record levels seen last year. Downing Street acknowledged there was “more to be done to crack down on thugs carrying knives and ensuring they are properly punished”. But the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Met Commissioner, Cressida Dick, have both acknowledged that the traditional approach of arresting our way out of a knife crime epidemic will not succeed as a stand-alone strategy.

Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, called for a “comprehensive national strategy” to deal with knife crime. The National Centre for Gangs Research said last year that “we need a radical new way of working to address this.

There is no single solution but many different solutions which must work together in concert.”

One leading not for profit company working with local authorities in England and Wales, Resilience UnLimited, believes that a major part of the solution to the current risks posed by county lines activity comes from strong, active, educated communities providing effective alternatives to violence, drugs and gang life. And public health approaches to reducing knife and serious youth violence do appear to have made a significant impact addressing and treating the underlying reasons for violence. Far from being your stereotypical ‘thugs’, evidence has shown an increase in knife carrying among young people as self defence or in response to the perceived greater risk of being a victim of knife crime. A problem better addressed by education and treating the underlying causes than simply scaling up stop and search and arrests? Research reveals that individuals are much more likely to be violent if you have witnessed violence or been a victim of violence. Figures released by the Metropolitan Police suggest that 72 per cent of suspects in homicide investigations were previously victims of crime and 26% victims of knife crime. Greater than 50% of the young people within Youth Offending Services have either been witness to domestic abuse or be victim to it.

Radical new approaches to this problem have shown that they can make a difference. One of the few boroughs to buck the trend on knife offences last year, Waltham Forest, launched a public health approach to violence reduction in 2018 and can point to a 27% reduction in knife crime offences in its first 12 months.

So, perhaps, now is the time to be investing in education programmes and community led initiatives that provide a positive alternative to gang life and knife carrying and to build the partnerships that are needed to lead these projects locally. However, radical new approaches require investment and the Coronavirus outbreak risks diverting funding away from some community safety schemes as well as some local authorities’ focus on the issue.

Many commentators are speculating how life after lockdown will be different. Sadly unless we continue to be focussed on tackling the knife and serious youth violence epidemic that we were experiencing before the onset of COVID19, borne out by the ONS data, there is a  risk is that knife crime and death toll linked to  it, will look depressingly familiar.

Notes

Waltham Forest Council Interim Report on VRU – see https://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/content/tackling-crime-and-violence

Ask Me Programme – see www.ask-me.org

Resilience UnLimited – see www.resilienceprogramme.co.uk

National Centre for Gangs Research – see https://www.uwl.ac.uk/research/research-centres/national-centre-gang-research

ONS Crime Statistics 2019 – https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/crimeinenglandandwales/yearendingdecember2019

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Need for extra-vigilance after lengthy school closure to curb spread of COVID19

On Wednesday the government announced that all schools would close to curb the spread of Covid-19 with only children of key workers and those classed as “vulnerable” – pupils with a social worker or needing special needs support – allowed to keep attending. 

There is a real fear that at-risk children could be exposed to exploitation by county lines drug gangs during the shutdown with no firm timeline for how long schools will stay shut. Recently, children excluded from school or attending Pupil Referral Units have been seen as a recruitment pool for gangs. 

There is evidence that children as young as seven have been promised drugs, cash and ‘street capital’ to run drugs along the 2,200 drug-dealing county lines gangs estimated by the National Crime Agency to be operating across the UK. 

Local authority safeguarding and community safety teams are still be working to protect young people despite the challenges posed by coronavirus and anyone who is worried about the welfare of a child or young person should contact the multi-agency safeguarding hub at Waltham Forest via MASHrequests@walthamforest.gov.uk or calling 020 8493 2310.

Our Ask Me volunteers are also available for young people and their families during this time. Although we have scaled back our activities in line with government advice on social distancing, we can offer support to any young person or their family at risk of being affected by gang, knife harm and serious youth violence by phone, or face to face via Facetime or skype. If you or someone you know needs support, please email info@ask-me.org or contact us via our website (https://ask-me.org/ask-us).

For details about our Ask Me volunteers or to access our FAQs or community directory, see www.ask-me.org or ask us a question via the Ask Us link.

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How to save a life: emergency first aid for victims of knife crime.

A must watch clip for all young people as lead nurse for Violence Reduction at The Royal London Hospital, Michael Carver, explains what happens when someone is stabbed and what you need to do to help save them. It also provides some insight on what environment young people can experience when they’re admitted to A&E with a knife injury. An invaluable watch and potentially life saving journalism by BBC. 

Watch the clip here – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-london-51635931/knife-crime-how-to-save-a-stabbing-victim

To learn more about why young people carry knives and why we are seeing a rise in ultra violence, please see www.ask-me.org/FAQs

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Ask Me about gangs scheme

The ‘Ask Me About Gangs’ service deployed its first Ambassadors this autumn as part of the Borough Council’s gang prevention programme. The new service builds on two recent successes; a similar project promoted by Women’s Aid supporting victims of domestic violence, and the positive impact of the Streetbase peer support network run by young people, for young people, in Waltham Forest.

Thirty ‘Ask Me’ advisers are now working across the borough, with a further cohort due to go live in March, bringing the number of advisers in the team to forty.  However, the ‘Ask Me’ Service is much more than an adult led outreach service looking to support young people and families at risk of gang or youth violence. The team behind ‘Ask Me’ , We Can Work It Out Ltd, has also built, with the help of young people in the borough, an online resource answering commonly asked questions about gang and county lines issues, allowing young people to ask further questions about issues that concern them and compiling an up to date, database of the key support services and organisations in Waltham Forest.

Ambassadors at a recent ward walk in Waltham Forest

Jonathan Green, one of the Directors of ‘We Can Work It Out’, who are leading the work, said “We are delighted to be working with the Council to offer a positive alternative for young people in the borough. Its great to see so many people using the website and how the website and our Ambassadors have joined up so many of the organisations working so hard for young people in the borough”

Anyone interested in becoming an Ask Me Ambassador should be 18 years and over. You can express your interest via  https://ask-me.org/ask-me-ambassador.

The FAQ section of the website can be found here -. https://ask-me.org/ask-me-faqs.

The online directory of community services working to reduce the impact of gang and knife related crime can be found at – https://ask-me.org/directory-category.

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Election 2019 campaign – in touch with one of the biggest public health issues facing our country in 2019?

As politicians and those who gorge themselves on polls, leafletting and manifests argue about getting  Brexit done (or not), whether the President of the US really wants a stake in our NHS (or not)  and whether any of the parties’ promises can be afforded (or not), one issue is markedly missing from TV debates,  manifesto headlines and potential MPs’ hustings – when and how are we going to start to address the issue of rising gang-violence, knife crime and county lines?

So far this week:

  • The media reported on the opening day of the trial of those accused of allegedly killing Jaden Moodie in a “frenzied attack” in Waltham Forest at the turn of this year.  The prosecutor in the case said the images shown to the jury, showed the killers had “no qualms about playing out their petty gang rivalries using the blade of a knife”.  Jaden was a 14-year-old.
  • Three men have died and a further seven were injured in knife attacks across the capital last weekend. There was large scale reporting of the latest incidents in Ealing, Ilford, Isleworth and Whitechapel and one paper claims the deaths “laid bare the horrific knife crime epidemic plaguing the streets of the capital”. Others reported that the latest deaths were part of a “shocking weekend of knife violence across London”. While the random and barbaric nature of the attacks, the ages of the victims and the impact on lives across the capital is still shocking, it is no longer such a shock or such a surprise to see these headlines in Monday morning’s newspapers.  
  • The Guardian newspaper has printed two insightful articles, among the pages of electoral infighting, on the rise of county lines activity across the country, trapping “scared kids” in the cycles of the kinds of violence which likely led to the tragic death of Jaden Moodie and those who died recently in Ealing, Whitechapel and Ilford.  A second article reports on the thousands of girl gang members trapped in a cycle of violence and abuse, as the latest figures produced by the Children’s Commissioner suggest that up to 34% of children involved in gangs are girls who are at risk of both criminal and sexual exploitation. 

And yet, the issue has yet to grip the 2019 election campaign.

Nationally, in the UK, we have seen an increase in serious youth violence and gang-related crime in the last five years. Across England and Wales, the number of deaths caused by knives, guns and violent assaults have increased by over a third. Knife offences have risen by over 70% to a nine-year high. The number of under-18s admitted to hospital with knife injuries rose by 33% between 2013/14 and 2017/18. London has seen similar trends to those nationally.  

There are various reasons put forward for the rise in serious youth violence, ranging from cuts to youth services, policing budgets, and failure of youth and safeguarding agencies to evolve to deal with a twenty first century problem. It is undeniable however that the significant rise in serious youth violence and knife crime in England and Wales is due to an evolution in our home-grown gangs. These gangs have evolved in the vacuum left by cuts in youth services and policing budgets and a failure to keep track of their organised crime methods; also because of rapid marketing through social media.

This has not only had a profound impact on young people in our metropolitan cities, but also, via county lines activity, that impact is being felt in affected areas of the countryside (particularly deprived towns and seaside locations) which have previously not seen gang activity.

During the course of gang prevention work we have been doing with Waltham Forest Council’s public health approach to violence, we have heard parents, brothers and sisters of those sucked into gang life tell us they wished they’d known more about county lines so they could have better supported their child. They tell us that without understanding the signs of exploitation, they can’t act. That was the driver for launching our online advice pages for parents (https://ask-me.org/ask-me-faqs) and the linked service giving young people and their families the ability to ask us questions that concern them.

The key messages that need to be relayed to parents as part of a public health campaign are clear.

  • The numbers of those involved in gang activity has grown, with young people joining gangs far earlier and staying locked into gang activity for longer.  Recent studies show that children as young as 12 are becoming active in gangs, and rather that leaving gangs in their early twenties, gang elders are now trapped in gang life into their thirties. This means the pool of gang activists is now bigger than ever before and the competition is greater.
  • Gangs have now developed their own gig-economy which can deliver drugs to the user by motorbike in London and other big cities, or else young people are groomed and coerced into acting as couriers for county lines activity. The drugs markets are themselves becoming saturated and overcompetitive, leading to more gang-related violence as gangs compete over post-codes and territory.
  • Social media is being widely exploited by gangs to recruit new members, attract fans, broadcast and brag about achievements, market the gangs and advertise drug dealing. Social media can also be used to trap members within gangs; many face the threat of live-streaming humiliating videos or images as a means of coercion and control. It is a 24/7, 52 weeks-a-year tool which can lead to young people suffering high levels of anxiety and mental health problems.
  • Far from providing the camaraderie and the element of a ‘missing family’ dynamic, gang activity is becoming ultra-violent, more competitive and more difficult to escape. A leading academic in this field, Professor Simon Harding, in his must-read book for any parent, “Street Casino” writes that gang members face “greater competition to get noticed, to get ahead of the gang or to build reputations. As a result, gang members engage in ultra-violence in order to maintain street capital”. Consequently, this “increasing cycle of violence has altered social norms for some groups of young people with ultra-violence now a part of everyday life”. It is this very activity, which is now being played out daily on television, on social media and in newspapers, driving the headlines in Monday morning papers of apparently random, senseless attacks on young people, in areas once unused to seeing violence of this kind.

The rise of county lines drugs gangs is a public health emergency. Its impact is being felt in urban and rural communities, not used to tackling violence and drug dealing and ill equipped to act. Many of the support services previously in place to deal with social and community care have withered on the vine or are struggling to compete for funding and without the level of strong joined up strategic leadership that is needed to bring those resources together. Much of the narrative being used to explain the rise in serious youth violence in England and Wales is out of date and needs updating. We are dealing with a fast evolving and dangerous 21st century problem, using 20th century rhetoric, agencies and approach.

September saw the launch of the country’s first National Centre for Gang Research, based at the University of Westminster. It’s the first such centre in Europe.  It is the kind of initiative, much needed, that any new government will need to work collaboratively with, let alone fund, in order to improve understanding of the problem and contribute to solutions to fix it.

With a few weeks of the 2019 election campaign to go, we would like to see politicians on all sides acknowledge the scale and seriousness posed by the rise in gang activity, county lines and knife crime and find some debating time or manifesto space to agree:

  • That a radical new way of tackling this public health emergency is needed now – backed by properly costed and affordable funding – working across political parties and allegiances.
  • To tackle current policies, designed to help, but which are actually fuelling the growth of county lines – for example, reducing the rate of school exclusions (which is fuelling the recruitment pool of young people, for gang elders),  reconsidering existing housing policies (which are helping to relocate county lines dealers outside our cities) and tackle the ability of gangs operating within our prisons to continue trading and recruiting.
  • A commitment to listening to young people and the communities affected, to seek their views on the challenges and potential solutions – working ‘with them’, not ‘doing to them’.
  • A commitment to working with the experts in the field, like the National Centre for Gang Research, and relying on 21st century data and intelligence, rather than continuing the siloed, piecemeal, dated and often ineffective approaches of the past.
  • Reinvesting realistically in community services and better rewarding the army of volunteers who are currently tackling the issues on the ground and making a difference.

There is still time to make this big public health issue of our time, a big issue in Decembers election. Please forward this article to your prospective parliamentary candidates or concerned parents.

Read more about our part in the gang prevention programme in Waltham Forest at https://ask-me.org

Follow us on Twitter (@AskMe_LBWF) or like our pages on Facebook (fb.me/AskUsAboutGangs).

Sign up to become one of our Community Ambassador/Advisors here – https://ask-me.org/register-your-interest

Ask us a question here – https://ask-me.org/ask-us

Further Reading

Guardian articles – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/nov/27/girls-gangs-sexual-criminal-exploitation-violence and https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/nov/25/violence-kids-county-lines-gangs

Street Casino, Professor Simon Harding – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Street-Casino-Survival-Violent-Gangs/dp/1447317181

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Violence Reduction Approach shows initial success stories in its first year

We are delighted to be working in partnership with Waltham Forest Council as part of their violence reduction partnership. The first annual report was published on 1st November 2019 and highlights:

  • A collaborative, partnership approach that recognises the collective responsibility of the whole community to support the borough’s young people to showcase their talents: the partnership includes the council, the police, our schools, health workers, residents and community organisations including We Can Work It Out Ltd/Ask Me.
  • More joint operations with Police than any London borough; this has led to a 38% reduction in crime in one area of the borough.
  • Implementing a gang-exit programme, supporting leavers in the community as they exit prison.
  • Community mentors and Ask Me Ambassadors who are now live and supporting young people and their families in the borough.
  • A 27% reduction in knife crime offences over 12 months.

Our Ask Me service currently offers:

  • An online resource, built with the help of local young people, which looks to answer the typical questions people may have about gangs and serious youth violence. (See –  https://ask-me.org/ask-me-faqs/).
  • The service also allows young people and their families to ask further questions that we will answer with help from our expert network. Ask Us a question via – https://ask-me.org/ask-us/ ;
  • Community Ambassadors who are deployed across the borough to engage with young people and signpost them to resources in the gang prevention partnership as well as other community organisations who are offering support for people in need or anything from peer to peer support, counselling and financial assistance;
  • A Community Directory putting families in touch with the wide range of excellent support services and organisations across the borough and London. We found that many of the existing online advice pages were out of date or did not contain the full picture of the extensive support offered, in one place. The Ask Me service continues to co-ordinate a full joined-up picture of support available to support our Ambassadors to give the best advice when signposting young people and to help the wider community. The community directory can be found here – https://ask-me.org/directory-category/

We are continuing to work with Waltham Forest Borough Council and other community partners to expand the offer of the Ask Me service and to build upon the early successes of the public health Violence Reduction approach. The annual report can be read in full here – https://walthamforest.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Violence%20Reduction%20Partnership%20Annual%20Report%202019_0.pdf

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Is Knife crime reaching a ‘record high’ in England and Wales?

Last week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the latest crime statistics leading a number of newspapers to publish headlines that knife crime in England and Wales had risen to a “record high”. Nationwide, the country has seen an overall rise of seven per cent, with 44,076 incidents involving a knife or sharp instrument. The figures led to Javed Khan, chief executive of charity Barnardo’s, saying “It’s totally unacceptable that the knife crime crisis continues to claim so many young lives, with offences at record high. Knife crime is a symptom of a much wider, complex problem. Too many young people are suffering a ‘poverty of hope’, and facing a future with no qualifications, no prospects, and no role models, making them vulnerable to criminal gangs who force them to deliver drugs and carry knives.”

Are the claims of record highs, correct?

Although it is accurate that knife offences have risen significantly, the comparable data only goes back to 2011, so  a “record high” is maybe more fairly described as an eight-year high. It’s certainly true that the figures we are seeing now, are amongst the highest in that eight year period.

Secondly,  knife crime is measured using police recorded crime data and so only reflects crimes that are reported and recorded, not total crime. So, it does not necessarily follow that the true level of crime across England and Wales has actually  increased. The data can be affected by targeted policing activity or campaigns and victims’ willingness to report crime.

The total number of homicides across the country fell by 5 per cent in the last year, from 719 to 681 offences. There has also been a 14 per cent decrease in homicides where a knife was involved, despite headlines at the end of 2018 suggesting otherwise. The drop, which has surprised many, appears to be mainly due to a fall in the number of deaths involving knives or bladed weapons in London. However, more worryingly from the Capitals perspective, the year ending June 2019 saw 32 per cent of all offences recorded by police involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales,  happened in London.

Some commentators suggest this is on the back of the Met Police recording 4,000 more searches for offensive weapons in 2018. Others suggest that it’s too simplistic to argue that that one has explicitly caused the other. They say that there were few overall changes in the number of total offences involving a knives or blades in London in the last year and there is little evidence that previous stop and search initiatives in the capital have had a positive effect on bringing down violent crime.

So we can’t say for sure what has caused the fall in the number of knife related deaths, but what we can say is that projections for 2019 look concerning and likely to create similar headlines of record or nine year highs in newspapers next year.

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Ambassadors Go Live

Our first group of Ask Me Community Ambassadors go live on Tuesday 15th October – deployed throughout the borough in areas where they can add real value to support young people and families at risk of gang activity of the threat of youth violence. We have Ambassadors based in the following areas:

• Chingford
• Higham’s Park
• Leyton
• Leytonstone
• Upper Walthamstow
• Walthamstow
• Cann Hall
• Bakers Arms
• Friday Hill

The team have been received training to help them understand the causes of the rise in serious youth violence, to engage effectively with young people and their families and to promote all aspects of the Waltham Forest Council Gang Prevention Programme (GPP) and the public health approach to the issue.

We are very pleased with the quality and diversity our first group of Ambassadors – we think they will hit the ground running and offer an excellent first line of defence as part of the GPP.

Please don’t hesitate to contact info@ask-me.org if you would like to access any of our Ambassador team.

We are still looking for a further twenty Ambassadors to make up a second cohort and have a training session booked for 25th January 2020. Please don’t hesitate to refer any suitable contacts, friends, role models to our website – https://ask-me.org/ask-me-ambassador – to express an interest.

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