In Depth

UK knife crime in five sets of statistics

US president courts controversy by taking aim at Sadiq Khan over stabbings epidemic in London

Police have stepped up patrols around London after four people were murdered in the English capital in as many days.

Stabbing attacks claimed the lives of an 18-year-old in Wandsworth on Friday, a man in his 30s in Tower Hamlets on Saturday and a man in his 40s in Stratford yesterday morning. A 19-year-old was also shot dead in Plumstead on Friday.

Police say they have made several arrests and are using “operational tactics in targeted locations” to reassure residents.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has used his Twitter account to take aim at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, calling him a “national disgrace” over his perceived failure to tackle knife crime.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was “absolutely awful” that Trump was using the “tragedy of people being murdered to attack the mayor”, but Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he “150% agrees” with the president’s sentiment.

Trump’s take on UK knife crime is certainly controversial, but is he right? Here are five sets of chilling statistics about knife crime in Britain:

Threat to young people 

Charity reports that of all the people convicted or cautioned for offences involving knives and offensive weapons in England and Wales in the year to September 2018, an estimated 21% were aged between ten and 17.

And around a third of all victims of knife-related killings over the past decade were in that age group, the charity adds.

Sudden rise in attacks

Contrary to popular belief, the number of fatal stabbings with a knife or a “sharp instrument” has not risen consistently over the past decade.

In fact, says the i news site, the UK generally saw a downward trend between 2007 and 2015.

However, April 2015 marked the start of a dramatic rise that has continued ever since. Between then and March 2016, knife-related deaths in the UK increased by 14%, from 186 to 213, before shooting up to 285 in 2017-18, the highest figure since 1946.

“This equates to a rise of 34.4 per cent in just one year and reveals knife-related murders increased by more than double the rate of the previous year,” the news site says.

Crisis in London 

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), knife crimes are “disproportionally concentrated in London”, with 35% of all UK crimes involving a knife or sharp instrument occurring in the capital in the 12 months to September 2018.

“The Metropolitan Police saw 168 offences per 100,000 people in the latest year,” the ONS says. “The highest rates after London were seen in West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands (118, 112 and 107 offences per 100,000 population respectively)”.

But New York is far more dangerous

The recent four killings in London have taken the total number of homicides in the city this year to 57.

The BBC’s Dominic Casciani says that Trump’s home city of New York is “often regarded as a comparable city because it has a similar population and shares other characteristics too”, but New York Police Department statistics show its per capita murder rate is twice as high as London’s.

Casciani says that New York is “by no means” the US’s most dangerous city. Many other cities have “far higher” murder rates.

Glasgow leading way in tackling knife crime 

Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU) was set up to stem the tide of knife crime that saw Glasgow become Europe’s murder capital, the BBC reports.

The decision to switch to a public health approach to fighting violent crime, saw trauma surgeons visit schools, share their experiences and offer young people alternatives to joining gangs.

The results have been remarkable. In 2004-2005, there were 137 homicides in Scotland; by 2016-2017, there were just 62.

“When we looked at the figures, we realised that our [violent crime] trajectory was going in the wrong direction,” said Will Linden, co-deputy director of the SVRU. “In order to reduce the violence, we needed to take a wider look at this and think differently. We needed to look at things like education, health, academia, the workplace and the third sector.”


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