The Daily Telegraph, Murders 'on rise' amid knife violence

Saturday, 12 July, 2008

Murders 'on rise' amid knife violence

THE number of murders has risen in England and Wales in the past year, crime figures are expected to show next week.

Amid growing concerns over knife and gun crime - there were six fatal stabbings in one day this week - some forces have reported that killings have doubled.

On Thursday, there were four stabbings in London, one in West Bromwich in the West Midlands and a sixth in Tarleton, Lancs. Yesterday, a 17-year-old was shot dead in Sheffield.

Last night, Gordon Brown promised that further measures to tackle knife crime would be unveiled on Monday, following the announcement of a 75-strong task force aimed at tackling knife crime in the capital.

The pledge came as Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said: "Four men have been killed - one a teenager - and a fifth remains critically ill. Each is an absolute tragedy. The dreadful loss of life in just 24 hours graphically illustrates the need for everyone to pull together to put an end to this unacceptable violence.''

Next week, the Home Office is set to release annual police crime statistics for the 43 police forces in England and Wales.

A survey of 24 forces by The Daily Telegraph found that 12 had recorded a jump in murders and two showed no change in the past year.

Although the overall number of murders was up fractionally, six forces saw increases of 50 per cent or more, while the rate in North Yorkshire and Norfolk doubled - although they were relatively low.

The Metropolitan Police reported the most incidents, with 167 murders in 2007-8, up from 158. There were other big rises in Lancashire, where murders went up by five to 48, and in Avon and Somerset where the number jumped from 11 to 16.

Overall, the number of murders for the 24 forces surveyed increased from 459 to 461.

Separate figures obtained by David Ruffley, the Tory shadow police reform minister, showed that there had been a 21 percent increase in homicides in the past decade, from 609 in 1997 to 734 in 2006-07.

There was also a 29 per cent rise in those killed by sharp instruments, such as knives, from 200 in 1997 to 258 in 2006-07. Mr Ruffley said: "The Government's claims that violent crime is down just do not measure up with the everyday experience of people.'' The Daily Telegraph also collected figures for incidents of violence against the person from 26 forces and found that one in five forces had reported an increase.

Overall, forces reported 568,000 violent attacks, down 6 per cent from the year before.

Three of the 26 forces recorded separate figures for knife crime and the only force to record an increase in knife crime was Thames Valley, which logged 240 incidents, up from 236. Elsewhere, the Met recorded 10,108 incidents, down from 11,717. Most of the forces reported statistics for the year to the end of March, however three used figures to the end of May and two for the year to the end of June.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, was said to be pleased that the violent crime statistics are likely to show a fall. However, Richard Garside, of King's College London, said: "I don't put too much weight on police violence statistics because they're very susceptible to police recording patterns and individuals' decisions about reporting crime.''

A Home Office spokesman said: "The British Crime Survey shows that violent crime has fallen by a third over the past 10 years.''