Statement from Patrick Green, CEO of The Ben Kinsella Trust, following the release of today's knife crime figures from the ONS
28th October 2020
Crime figures released by the ONS today show that knife crime dropped by 1% in England and Wales last year. This is the first time in 5 years that police recorded crime involving knives or sharp instruments has moved in a downward direction. But for 9 months of last year knife crime was running at record levels. This reduction is attributed to the 3 months covering lockdown, which saw a fall of 21% in knife crime in the 3-month period April-July compared to the previous year. If lockdown had not happened, we would now be talking about knife crime levels being the highest ever.
Any decrease in knife crime should be seen as a positive, even if it is as modest as 1%. While lockdown may have been the main contributor to this reduction, others too deserve credit for their work to tackle this issue. Lockdown has disrupted all our lives and it has made life more difficult for some criminals. With fewer people on the streets, crimes that often involve the use of a knife such as robberies and thefts; have fallen. The drugs market too has also been affected.
The Met Commissioner spoke in April of the success her officers were having in targeting and arresting drug dealers. In the same month the chair of the National Police Chief Council stated that with fewer public events to police, they were better able to redeploy officers to tackling drugs and gangs with great success.
But any success in tackling knife crime requires more than enforcement to be successful. Youth workers too have played their part in driving down knife crime. Despite the restrictions imposed on the sector during lockdown, there is ample evidence to show that youth workers quickly adapted to changing the nature of their work, connecting with young people online when face to face meetings could not happen. This meant that many of our most vulnerable young people still retained a positive influence in their lives during difficult times.
But there continue to be reasons to be concerned about the further projection of knife crime. Lockdown may have contributed to a fall in knife crime but it has led to an increase in domestic violence (up 9%). Domestic violence and adverse childhood experiences are one of the main drivers of knife crime. An increase in violence in the home is a worrying indicator of future risk.
Unemployment rates too are on the increase. Research from the University of Birmingham points to a direct link between unemployment and knife crime. It suggests that for every 1% increase in the unemployment rates, there is a 0.1 to 0.2% increase in knife crime.
There is also a growing concern that the threat from gangs has not abated but simply gone underground. A report from the National Youth Agency in May, stated real concerns that gangs have changed their modus operandi and are using social media to recruit vulnerable young people and continue to use county lines to expand their drug dealing.
NHS data also shows that in July, when lockdown restrictions were reduced, admissions to hospital for knife related injuries returned to their depressingly high numbers. A sign that the problem is not fixed, it has just momentarily stalled.
So, despite what may seem like positive news, the prognosis for knife crime remains concerning. The is mounting evidence to indicate that knife crime could return in greater numbers. So, we need to look at what we are doing well, and do a lot more of it.
1) Place a greater emphasis on Youth Work and prevention and early intervention programmes.
2) Tackle the underlying social issues that create the environment that allows knife crime to fester and grow.
3) Ensure the police are properly resourced so that they can tackle and disrupt criminals.
Your donation will help us to educate young people about the dangers of knife crime and help us to achieve our vision: that no family or community should suffer the loss of a life to knife crime