South Yorkshire records one of smallest increases in knife crime in the country
Knife crime in England and Wales hit a record high last year, but South Yorkshire had one of the lowest increases compared to other parts of the country, official figures show.
Police recorded 43,516 offences involving knives or sharp objects in the year to March 2019 – up eight per cent on the year before and the highest figure since comparable records began in 2011.
South Yorkshire Police recorded 1,032 such offences in 2018/19 compared to 1,008 the year before.
Some forces saw knife crime figures rocket, with Suffolk recording a 51 per cent rise, Merseyside a 49 per cent increase and
Dyfed-Powys a 45 per cent hike.
Derbyshire Constabulary logged 610 offences – up 23 per cent on 494 the year before.
Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said: "It's unacceptable that the knife crime crisis continues unabated with offences at record levels.
"Children are not born with knives in their hands, knife crime is a symptom of a much bigger problem.
"Our frontline support services say vulnerable children and young people are being recruited and exploited by criminal gangs and forced to traffic drugs and carry knives.
"Urgent action must be taken so that future generations are not condemned to live in an endless spiral of violence."
The number of homicides in 2018/19 increased slightly to 701 from 693 in the previous 12 months, excluding terror attacks.
But the number of homicides where a knife or sharp instrument was involved decreased by nine per cent in the last year, to 260 offences.
Scotland Yard, Britain's largest force, recorded 67 homicides involving a knife or sharp instrument in the year ending March 2019 - a 39 per cent reduction from 110 in the previous year.
Total police-recorded crime, excluding fraud and computer misuse, stood at 5.26 million offences in 2018/19 - a rise of eight per cent from 4.88 million in 2017/18.
The total number of ‘violence against the person’ offences rose by 20 per cent year-on-year to 1.67 million, while robbery offences rose by 11 per cent, to a total of 85,736.
Mark Bangs, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: "The picture of crime is a complex one. Overall levels of crime have remained steady, but this is not the case for all types of crime.
"For example, overall levels of violence have remained steady but we have seen increases in violent crimes involving knives and sharp instruments.
"We have seen increases in fraud and overall theft, but decreases in burglary following recent rises."
Home Office figures, released separately on Thursday, showed the proportion of crimes in England and Wales resulting in a charge or summons fell to the lowest level in 2018/19 since data began to be recorded in 2015.
The rate fell from 403,221 or 9.1 per cent in the previous year to 403,221 or 7.8 per cent in the 12 months to March 2019, continuing a downward trend since 2015 when the rate was 15.5 per cent.
Other data released by the Home Office showed a small increase in the number of police officers working in England and Wales, rising to 123,171 in the 12 months to March 2019, up by 766 or 0.6 per cent from the previous year.
Policing minister Nick Hurd said: "While the chances of being a victim of crime remain low, we are deeply concerned that certain offences, including serious violence, have increased and we are taking urgent action.
"Police funding is increasing by more than £1 billion this year, including council tax and £100 million for forces worst affected by violent crime.
"I am encouraged to see officer numbers increasing, and that police and crime commissioners have committed to recruiting over 3,700 additional officers and staff this year.
"We are also acting to address the root causes of violence and stop young people being drawn into crime in the first place. This week we announced a new legal duty for public bodies to work together to prevent and tackle serious violence as part of our public health approach."
The Reform think tank said simply putting more officers on the streets is not the answer to the knife crime epidemic.
Director Charlotte Pickles said: "The continuing rise in knife crime is tragic, but not surprising.
"Until politicians take seriously the need to invest in prevention alongside enforcement, more young people will continue to die on our cities' streets.
"Any increases in police numbers must be targeted and coupled with serious investment to tackle the lethal mix of poverty, school exclusion, poor mental health and drugs.
"It's astonishing that both Tory leadership candidates think that pledging thousands more bobbies is enough."