In Depth

Is knife crime rising?

Murder rate for 2020 climbs as three men stabbed to death

The number of homicide investigations launched by the Metropolitan Police in 2020 has risen to six, after three men were stabbed to death last night in northeast London.

According to the BBC, the latest victims, believed to be in their 20s or 30s, were found with knife injuries by officers responding to reports of a disturbance in Seven Kings, Ilford, shortly after 7.40pm. The trio, who were all pronounced dead at the scene, are believed to have been involved in a fight, according to the Metropolitan Police. 

Two men, aged 29 and 39, have been arrested on suspicion of murder. Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Clayman said that the victims and suspects knew each other and come from “within the Sikh community”.

The stabbings are the latest in a spate of knife crimes across the capital.

Is knife crime on the rise?

The BBC reports that knife possession offences hit a record high in 2019, with 14,135 offences in the year to September - the most since the data was first compiled, in 2007.

“When possession offences including other weapons were added, the total was almost 22,300 - the most since 2009,” the broadcaster says. However, BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw notes that the increase in possession-related crimes could also be linked to more effective policing and “greater use of police stop-and-search powers”.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in October revealed that police-recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument rose by 7% in the year to June, reaching a record 44,076. 

And the BBC reported in November that the number of teenagers stabbed in London had hit its highest level since 2008, accounting for 23 out of 25 homicides in the age group last year.

However, homicide rates across the UK fell for the first time in five years. A total of 650 people were killed in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in 2019 - down from the 774 homicides the previous year, police figures show.

But London bucked the trend, with the murder rate rising for a third successive year. The Met Police launched 149 investigations in the 12 months to 30 December.

And the reaction?

Boris Johnson last week formed a new cabinet committee aimed at combating knife crime and serious violence. Justice Secretary Robert Buckland reportedly told ministers that “every department should be a criminal justice department” in the fight against the growing problem.

But London Mayor Sadiq Khan argues that the increase in violence is being driven by “deprivation, poor mental health, school exclusions and poverty”, adding: “The lesson we must all learn is that you can’t cut police officers, public services, preventative measures and ignore the most vulnerable people in our country at the same time as keeping crime low.”

Sky News police analyst Graham Wettone, a former Met Police officer, has described the rise in knife crime as an “epidemic”.

“In my opinion, the knife crime crisis rests initially and primarily with government and specifically Theresa May as home secretary and then prime minister,” Wettone says. 

“Her austerity measures and personal attacks on the police service in respect of funding and resources has contributed to the epidemic of violent offences we are now experiencing.”

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