Knife crime in England and Wales highest in over 9 years

LONDON, July 17 (Reuters) - Knife crime in England and Wales rose to its highest level since comparable statistics began to be gathered nine years ago, with London reporting a 28% annual rise in knife killings over the past year.

Offences involving knives or sharp instruments in England and Wales rose 6% to 46,265 in the year to March 2020, 51% higher than when comparable figures began in 2011, according to police data published on Friday by Britain's Office for National Statistics.

London, which accounted for just over a third of knife crime, saw a 7% rise in offences.

"The number of homicides involving the use of a knife or sharp instrument in London increased from 67 to 86, a 28% increase," the ONS said.

While knife crime rose, there was a 4% decrease in firearms offences and a 9% decrease in burglary across England and Wales. Data for the city of Manchester in northwest England was excluded due to problems with a new computer system in the city.

The increase in knife crime recorded by the police contrasts with a longer-term decline in violent crime measured by an ONS survey of the public, which is its lowest since that survey began in 1981 and more than 70% below its peak in 1995.

The ONS says its surveys generally give a better sense of long-term trends than police records, as they are less affected by people's reluctance to speak to the police and changes in police record-keeping.

However, police records are likely to be better for rare crimes such as murders.

ONS data on crime in England and Wales for the year ending March 2020

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by David Milliken)

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