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Surge in Knife Crime Under Conservative Rule Exposes Johnson’s Lies

Sabrina Lavrut investigates the claim that ‘personal’ crimes have been falling under the Conservatives

Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a police briefing before going on a police drugs raid. Photo: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street

Surge in Knife CrimeUnder Conservative RuleExposes Johnson’s Lies

Sabrina Lavrut investigates the claim that ‘personal’ crimes have been falling under the Conservatives

Threats to kill involving a knife or sharp instrument across England and Wales rose by 342% between 2011 and 2021, research by the Byline Intelligence Team can reveal.

In 2011/12, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data – excluding Greater Manchester Police – there were 1,127 reported threats to kill using bladed weapons, compared to 4,984 in 2020/21.

Of real concern was how bladed threats to life translated into homicide. Last year, London recorded the highest number of teenage homicides ever, with at least 30 male teenagers aged 14 to 19 being killed, based on our analysis of newspaper reports. This surpassed the record of 29 in 2008. Overall, in 2021, 74.4% of homicides in London were caused by a knife or sharp instrument, a 15.6% increase from 2020.  

This sharp rise in threats, and juvenile murders, following 12 years of successive Conservative-led government comes amid concerns that the Prime Minister misled the House of Commons regarding crime statistics. Last month, Boris Johnson told MPs that the Government had been “cutting crime by 14%”. He crucially omitted the increase in fraud from his proclamation, and did not focus on threats to life.  

The Government has been reprimanded by the UK Statistics Authority after receiving complaints about the Prime Minister’s claim, that was reiterated by Home Secretary Priti Patel.

While knife threats over the last 10 years have substantially increased, it should be noted that, in general, homicides were down last year. Across England and Wales, there were 627 homicides recorded by police in the year ending June 2021, an 11% decrease from the year before. Of those, 262 (42%) involved a knife or sharp instrument, a decrease from the 269 knife-related homicides in 2020. Threats to life, however, rose from 4,630 to 4,984.

“Improvements to police crime recording over the past decade has contributed to a rise in the number of particular offence types, including threats to kill,” a Home Office spokesperson said.

“We are investing in more police officers and giving them more powers to take knives off the streets as well as funding programmes to divert young people away from a life of crime. But there is clearly more to do and we want forces across the country to redouble their efforts to put a stop to the violence in our communities”.

However, Detective Superintendent John Massey, a Cambridge-based policeman who specialises in knife crime data, believes such a rise could send out a warning signal – with knife threats and non-fatal stabbings being a potent indicator of potential future harm. In his research at Cambridge University, Massey focused on urban crime in areas with around 800 households and found “a strong correlation with non-lethal knife offences occurring and knife-enabled homicides occurring in the subsequent year”.

“In an area where there is a non-fatal assault in the first year and in an area where there are six or more non-fatal knife assaults, the next year you are 1,400 times more likely to have a fatal knife assault”, he said.

When Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng spoke to the BBC in defence of the crime figures offered by Johnson, he said: “I think fraud is really, really important, but people are talking particularly about burglaries, about personal injury, about personal crimes and I think in that context we’re seeing lower crimes, I think the Prime Minister was right”. 

However our research shows that, even if we were to focus on in-person crimes, threats to kill involving a knife still increased by 8% from 2019/20 to 2020/21, despite the Coronavirus pandemic requiring extended periods of lockdown restrictions.

Furthermore, this rise in knife threats is not – as some media would stress – an issue tied to race. Sue Roberts, a senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, has conducted extensive research into knife and gun violence. She says that “outside of London, the balance of ethnicity and conviction for knife possession is away from black and minority ethnic groups”.

Roberts cites a lack of appropriate housing, cuts to youth services, long-term Government cuts to policing and policy changes to benefits as factors that can lead to knife crime.

Moreover, this isn’t the first time that the Prime Minister has been in the spotlight for misleading Parliament. Byline Times diarist Peter Oborne has in fact launched a website, cataloguing the extensive “lies, falsehoods and misrepresentations of Johnson’s Government”.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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