Why Aren't British Police Tackling Knife Crime? - OZY | A Modern Media Company
The police recorded a continuing upward trend in knife crime with 47,136 offenses in the year to March, a rise of 8 percent from the previous year.


Even as offenses are at a record high, police involvement is at phenomenally low rates.

By Bethan Staton and Helen Warrell

The proportion of reported crimes resulting in police or court action has fallen to the lowest level in four years as knife crime offenses reach a record high, highlighting police concerns about the lack of resources.

The continued decline in charge rates comes amid rapid rises in some areas of serious and violent crime. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that knife offenses are at their highest rate since those records began in 2011.

Only about 8 percent of the 5.2 million recorded crimes in the year to March 2019 resulted in a summons or charge — a 50 percent drop from 2015. 

That’s according to recent Home Office statistics. During the same period four years ago, 15.5 percent of recorded crimes resulted in police or court action. Police closed nearly half — 44 percent — of offenses without identifying a suspect in the year to March, a slight drop from 47.5 percent the previous year.

“Too few crimes are being solved and brought to court for justice to be done. This is a symptom of the strain on policing as we try to manage growing crime and demand that is ever more complex,” says Chief Constable Andy Cooke, lead for crime at the National Police Chiefs Council.


The police recorded a continuing upward trend in knife crime with 47,136 offenses in the year to March, a rise of 8 percent from the previous year, according to the ONS. Robbery also increased 11 percent, while recorded fraud offenses rose by 17 percent.

Nick Hurd, minister for policing, responded by saying the government was “taking urgent action” over the rise in certain offenses.

Modern policing needs a modern workforce.

Charlotte Pickles, director, Reform

“Police funding is increasing by more than 1 billion pounds this year, including council tax and 100 million pounds 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,” Hurd said.

But Charlotte Pickles, director of public services think tank Reform, says the low charge rate was partly because of a government “obsession” with officer numbers that meant the need for back-office analysts and digital evidence experts had been ignored.

“Modern policing needs a modern workforce and simply boosting bobbies on the beat will not deliver that,” she says.

The reduction in officer numbers amid sustained budget cuts has dented morale. Home Secretary Sajid Javid said last week he would take steps to recognize the dedication and bravery of officers by creating a “police covenant” — similar to that extended to armed forces personnel — that would “do more” to help those who serve the country.

While the exact scope of the covenant is yet to be determined, the terms of the military covenant pledge support in education and family well-being, starting a new career, providing discounted services and access to health care.

By Bethan Staton and Helen Warrell

OZY partners with the U.K.'s Financial Times to bring you premium analysis and features. © The Financial Times Limited 2020.

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