Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Thursday, 22 January 2009

Burglaries and knife robberies up

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News home affairs

Police officer
Eighteen forces reported increases in the category of "most serious violence"

Robberies at knife point have risen by almost a fifth, according to official figures for England and Wales.

Domestic burglaries jumped 4% - the first significant rise for some years.

The Home Office figures for the three months to September 2008 indicate that total recorded crime continues to fall - down 3% over the quarter.

The figures come after the Home Office named 18 police forces involved in a row over the miscounting of some serious violence.

According to the British Crime Survey - a mass study of the experience of those surveyed rather than reports to the police - the risk of being a victim of crime remained at 23%.

Within that, the level of overall violent crime was said to be stable.

Rises in recorded crime
Knife/Sharp instrument robbery: 18%
Fraud/forgery: 16%
Drugs: 9%
Home burglary: 4%
Other burglary: 3%
Source: Home Office

But crimes recorded by the police showed significant increases in some key areas, including home break-ins, violence related to knives or sharp instruments, and drugs.

The rise in burglaries was the largest for seven years.

Separate Home Office figures showed that the total of 270 knife killings in 2007/08 was the highest since records began three decades ago.

The 9% rise in recorded drug offences was related to the police's increased use of powers to issue cannabis warnings, said the Home Office.

Recorded firearms offences fell by 29% between July and September 2008.

Downturn link denied

Responding to the figures, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith denied that there was an inevitable link between an economic downturn and a rise in break-ins.

Jacqui Smith said the government's initiatives are having an impact

"It's a fact that there's been an increase and that's worrying," she told the BBC News Channel.

"That's why last September we started work in the department [asking] if we are facing tough economic times, what will be the impact on crime."

Ms Smith said that the Home Office was bringing together representatives of vulnerable groups, the police and even DIY stores to work out ways of limiting opportunities for burglars. A new burglary prevention campaign, backed by a special fund, also begins next month.

But shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: "These statistics show the harsh consequence of Gordon Brown's economic downturn.

"This is made worse because the Home Secretary clearly has no idea how to deal with this credit crunch crime wave. It is particularly alarming that robberies involving knives have soared and that fatal stabbings are at an all-time high.

"The government's complacency in this area is proving fatal."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said the figures on knife crime showed the government's efforts to tackle the problem were not working.

"We know from some local areas that we can get a grip on knife crime. It's simply not being rolled out far enough and fast enough to ensure that that's happening across the country as a whole," said Mr Huhne.

"There's no rocket science about this."

Miscounting forces

Crime experts are reviewing how the police and Home Office count violent crime after ministers revealed last year that 18 forces had been asked for clarification over the counting of some serious offences.

Map of teen murders
70 teenagers killed in 2008
Deaths in handful of locations
London saw most deaths

In some cases, officers called to a serious attack where there had been only a minor injury were not recording the incident in the most serious violent crime category.

Police chiefs say the under-reporting in that category occurred honestly because some forces found the official national guidance, issued by the Home Office, to be ambiguous.

The forces asked to look again at their figures, named following a Freedom of Information request, were: the Metropolitan Police, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Cleveland, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Humberside, Kent, Lancashire, Norfolk, North Wales, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Suffolk and Thames Valley.

Figures for the "most serious violence" are not being published while experts assess their accuracy. When the mistake was first revealed, it led to a 22% jump in serious crime as incidents were re-categorised.

Crime statistics for Scotland are collated and released separately from those in England and Wales. The latest figures showed that recorded crime in Scotland had fallen to its lowest level in more than a quarter of a century, down 8% on the previous year.

A graph showing how burglaries have fallen for years
Trend down: Number of burglaries have been falling for years

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