21/10/2004

Violent crime and firearms offences on the rise: police figures

Despite an overall crime dip of 5%, violent crime in England and Wales has risen by 11% compared to the same quarter last year, according to police figures out today.

Firearm offences rose overall by 3% - the biggest hikes were for offences that resulted in no injury, at 28%, and for the use of imitation firearms.

However, the British Crime Survey (BCS), the government's preferred method for collating statistics, found that violent crime was down 6% crime and violence involving any injury dropped by 12%. Overall, crime has slipped by 7%, and the risk of being a victim of crime is the lowest since the BCS began in 1981, the Home Office has said.

The Home Office dismissed much of the police recorded violent crime rise as due to "increased reporting and recording of 'low level' thuggery", which increased by 14%. More willingness to report sex offences and the effect of new sex offence laws coming into force in May also contributed to see police statistics rise.

The government added that the increase of gun crime had "slowed dramatically", with tougher gun laws, support for community engagement, and effective police action helping to drive illegal guns off the streets.

The BCS quarterly figures published also found significant falls in vehicle thefts, burglary and robbery.

Home Office Minister, Hazel Blears, said today's figures were "very encouraging".

"We are witnessing the longest sustained fall in crime in living memory with people less likely to be a victim of crime today than since the British Crime Survey started more than 20 years ago. Volume crimes such as burglary, robbery and vehicle crime are continuing to drop dramatically," she said.

However, Lib Dem frontbencher Mark Oaten said that the firearms statistics were "totally unacceptable".

“The government is still not doing enough to stem the flow of guns onto the streets of our towns and cities. We need a national border force to stop these weapons reaching the UK in the first place," he said.

Mr Oaten also said that dismissing the rise in violent crime as the result of better recording methods was a tired excuse that carried little weight.

(gmcg)

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