In October the Home Office published its latest police-recorded crime figures for the year ending June 2019, which yet again showed a rise in violence and knife-related offences. Crime was up in almost all categories, with the total number of offences in England and Wales increasing by seven per cent.
The knife crime epidemic shows no signs of abating. Offences involving knives or sharp instruments increased by seven per cent to 44,076 offences, while violence (with or without injury) rocketed by 16 per cent. Drug offences were up by 15 per cent to 159,615, and robbery offences saw an 11 per cent increase to 88,177.John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said: “These figures will come as no surprise, as officers continue to struggle to deal with delivering the basics in policing which is incredibly frustrating for them.“
With forces snowed under by demand, and in some cases unable to answer all 999 calls, chiefs are having to make some difficult decisions over which services need to be reined back. With almost 22,000 fewer officers since 2010 there are simply not enough officers to go around, and my colleagues are being stretched to their limits. “On top of this, officers are still picking up the pieces of the broken mental health and social services; both the public and the Government must realise that we can’t be all things to all people.”
Other statistics included a 7% rise in rape cases, 4% increase in the number of firearms offences stalking and harassment up 38 per cent public order offences increased by nine per cent vehicle offences up by three per cent in this area.
The plummet in officer numbers means it takes longer for them to attend a scene of crime which can hinder the collection and preservation of evidence. He added: “It is hardly surprising investigations are taking longer to complete as officers juggle competing demands, while trying their very best to care for their victims and bring offenders to justice.”
However, there was a five per cent decrease in homicide offences (from 719 to 681), a three per cent drop in criminal damage and arson, and a four per cent fall in burglary offences. Mr Apter continued: “We welcome the Government’s plans to uplift the service with an extra 20,000 officers; it offers a much-needed lifeline and will give policing the capability to begin to drive crime down. This includes the scourge of knife crime, which shows no signs of slowing and is blighting the lives of so many. “But let me be clear, the benefits won’t be felt for some time. It will of course take years for the effects of the recruitment drive to be fully felt and the public must understand this. Until then, my colleagues will do the very best they can to protect the communities they serve.”
The Home Office report also revealed the proportion of crimes resulting in a charge or summons continued on its downward trend, falling from nine per cent to eight per cent. There was also a drop in the number and proportion of offences resolved by out of court resolutions.
The proportion of offences that were closed as a result of “evidential difficulties” also increased from 29 per cent to 32 per cent. And forces closed almost half (44 per cent) of offences with no suspect identified – a similar proportion to last year. An average of nine days was taken from the date the crime was recorded to assigning the outcome – an increase of three days compared with the previous year. Mr Apter said the findings were attributed to a national crisis in detective policing, with forces struggling to fill investigator positions, leading to greater workloads for those working in this area. The plummet in officer numbers means it takes longer for them to attend a scene of crime which can hinder the collection and preservation of evidence. He added: “It is hardly surprising investigations are taking longer to complete as officers juggle competing demands, while trying their very best to care for their victims and bring offenders to justice.”