Thugs committing 350 knife assaults EVERY DAY, as blade menace spreads to rural areas
By Stephen Wright
and Nicola Boden
Last updated at 4:56 PM on 17th July 2008
Young victim: Ben Kinsella, 16, was stabbed to death in June
Thugs are committing more than 350 knife assaults every day across England and Wales, latest crime figures reveal.
Results from the British Crime Survey showed nearly 130,000 attacks took place last year - a figure which does not include those against under-16s.
Separate figures recorded by police forces reveal 22,000 serious knife assaults including 231 attempted murders, almost 14,000 robberies and more than 8,000 woundings.
Ministers welcomed the annual figures which showed a nine per cent drop in overall crime last year, and claimed the steady downward trend in recent years was the most impressive in modern times - including a 12 per cent fall in all violent crime last year.
But they acknowledged serious public concerns over knife crime, following a spate of horrific murders in recent months, many involving young victims in inner city areas.
Firearms offences recorded by police rose 2 per cent last year to reach a total of 9,803, while homicides were up three per cent to 784.
The latest figures show how the shadow of 'Blade Britain' has spread from urban areas to the shires.
Hundreds of knife offences are being committed in county force areas including Devon and Cornwall, Hampshire, Kent, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Northumbria.
Crime statistics released by the Government today show the overall crime rate has fallen nine per cent, but for the first time the number of serious violent offences involving blades is broken down.
What emerges is a national map of knife crime across England and Wales which demonstrates how provincial areas are being hit by the problem.
As first revealed by the Daily Mail this morning, 22,151 serious crimes involved knives and sharp instruments in the financial year to March 2008.
This figure, equivalent to 60 offences a day, does not include an estimated 250 fatal stabbings, which are counted separately by the Home Office.
There were 231 attempted murders, 13,887 robberies and 8,000 woundings where the offenders used blades to some degree.
Ian Johnston, president of the Police Superintendents' Association, said: 'The public needs to understand this is not just a London or inner-city problem. It is a serious problem all over the country.
'While we welcome many of the initiatives which have been announced, they are mainly for the medium or long term.
'There is now a need for radical, short-term solutions. Serious consideration should be given to the idea of introducing a minimum prison sentence for carrying a knife. I believe this would have a dramatic impact.'
Mr Johnston called for more robust stop-and-search tactics.
'We must get back to the time when members of the public accept that even if they have done nothing wrong, and are not carrying a knife, they must not object to a police officer questioning them and in some cases searching them,' he said.
'The police need the public support from all communities to do that.'
Recorded crime figures show firearms offences increased two per cent to 9,803, drugs offences rose 18 per cent and murders rose three per cent to 784.
But overall, the survey shows crime has fallen leaving people two per cent less likely to be a victim of crime - now at 22 per cent.
This is the lowest level recorded since the British Crime Survey began in 1981, according to the Home Office.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she was 'extremely pleased' with the figures and that the Government's priority was to build on it for the future.
Ian Johnston, president of the Police Superintendents' Association called for more robust stop-and-search tactics
But the reduction belies people's fears of knife crime after a spate of stabbings across Britain since the start of the year.
Roughly a third of non-fatal knife offences, 7,409, were committed in London, which has recently been hit by a series of horrific stab murders involving teenagers. Greater Manchester (2,294) and West Midlands (2,303) have the next biggest knife crime figures.
But of particular concern to detectives, politicians and parents is the extent of Britain's knife problem in provincial forces.
For the first time, the Home Office has collated data on categories of violent crime where a knife has been used, including attempted murder, wounding with intent, grievous bodily harm and robbery.
Of the 22,151 knife crimes in England and Wales last year, 231 related to attempted murders; 5,248 were cases of wounding with intent; 2,785 were cases of grievous bodily harm; 2,359 related to robbery of business property and a further 11,528 were connected to the robbery of personal property.
Devon and Cornwall Constabulary recorded 288 offences where a blade or sharp instrument was used to stab, to cut or in threat.
Avon and Somerset had 360 such offences last year, Kent 327, Hampshire 388, Staffordshire 219, Cheshire 224 and Northumbria 351.
Dorset, with just 43 knife crime offences, had the lowest figures for a provincial force.
Although the statistics cover only England and Wales, they are mirrored by a similar pattern in Scotland, where knife crime has spread beyond major cities such as Glasgow.
Paul Gilligan, left, 31, who was stabbed to death in Manchester on Sunday, and Londoner David Idowu, 14, who died on July 7 of stab wounds
Officers have become increasingly concerned about the way blades have become a weapon of choice for a new generation of teenage thugs.
Casualty doctors believe knife crime is far more widespread in the country than official figures suggest because scores of victims who seek treatment in hospitals leave without making a formal complaint to police.
Alf Hitchcock: Calling for cross party efforts to find a long-term solution to knife crime
Knife attacks ended six lives in 24 hours in London last week, leading to an unprecedented statement from Scotland Yard aimed at reassuring the public.
As part of a crackdown on knife crime, Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alf Hitchcock has been appointed national knife crime czar to oversee police efforts in eight 'hotspots'.
In an exclusive interview with the Mail on Monday, Mr Hitchcock called for cross-party efforts to find a long-term solution.
'We've seen the problem of violence among young people getting worse,' he said. 'But it's not just knife crime. Knife crime is just symptomatic of larger issues.
'Of course we in the police are doing what we can to crack down - but policing cannot be the whole answer. After all, if we were able to stop and search every youngster estimated to be carrying a knife today, and they were all to be sent to prison, we'd be talking of tens of thousands.'
Gordon Brown called Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to Chequers on Saturday for urgent talks about the knife epidemic.
The Prime Minister urged him to make full use of new police powers to make pubs and clubs search customers for knives and guns.
Dominic Grieve, Tory Shadow Home Secretary, said the figures proved that knife crime affects the whole country and that targeting hotspots was inadequate.
Detectives expect the murder figures to be similar to 2006/2007, when a sharp instrument was used in 258 of the 734 unlawful killings recorded by police.