Robberies involving knives 'up 10 per cent'


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The Independent Online

The number of thefts, bag snatches and use of violence against victims rose 11 per cent in the last year, figures showed today.

The rise, from 3.5 million incidents to 3.9 million, was the biggest increase in more than 10 years, the British Crime Survey (BCS) showed.

Knife crime was also up, with the number of robberies involving knives rising 10% in the year to last September, from 13,971 in 2010 to 15,313, separate figures showed.

Overall, the BCS figures showed "no statistically significant change" in the estimated number of crimes in the year to last September, remaining at about 9.7 million incidents.

However the number of crimes recorded by police fell by 4% to 4.1 million over the same period.

The fall was fuelled by a drop in the number of all crime offence groups except robbery and other thefts, which were both up 4% in the year to September, compared with the previous 12 months.

Around half of all robberies, including the theft of smartphones, bags and cash, took place in London, the figures showed.

The 4% increase was driven by a 13% rise in the Metropolitan Police area and a 10% increase in the West Midlands.

However Greater Manchester Police, another of the biggest forces in the country, showed a 14% fall in the number of robberies.

Former Met Police chief Lord Stevens, who held the inaugural meeting of his commission into the future of policing today, said the rise in personal crimes was "a bit alarming".

"I'm not surprised, actually," he said.

"It's really worrying. We've got to get on top of them really quickly or you could run out of control."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper added: "These figures are deeply worrying and show this is the wrong time to cut 16,000 police officers.

"This is the biggest annual increase in personal crime for over a decade and follows a 40% drop during the Labour government.

"Yet the Home Secretary still has no strategy to cut personal crime and is only cutting police officers instead."

She added there were "serious signs that the long-term work to cut crime has now stalled".

The BCS figures, based on more than 45,000 interviews with people in England and Wales, showed the number of thefts from the person was up 12%, other thefts of personal property was up 14%, all violence against the person was up 9% and personal acquisitive crime was up 9%.

It takes the figures back to those last seen in 2004/05 and is the biggest rise since 2001/2 when the BCS became continuous.

However separate figures, based on the number of crimes recorded by police, showed the number of incidents of violence against the person fell by 8% and the number of thefts from the person rose by 8%.

Policing Minister Nick Herbert said: "Today's crime figures show a mixed picture and cannot be used to show there is a long-term change in either direction.

"There are areas of concern and, as we have consistently said, crime remains too high.

"We know good policing makes a difference and are freeing up the police to focus resources on the front line.

"There is a danger that divergence between the two sets of figures presents a confusing picture to the public. We want people to have accurate and clear crime data that is easy to access and understand."

Chief Constable Jon Murphy, the lead for crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said: "While incidents in violence against the person overall fell, a continued cause for concern was the increase in pickpocketing, robbery, and robbery with knives.

"This has been driven by a rise in robberies of personal property and police forces will want to focus actions on tackling these offences and offering crime prevention advice."