Labour accuses ministers of being 'in denial' over police cuts as knife crime figures hit record levels
Labour has accused ministers of being "in denial" over the impact of police cuts as knife crime figures rose to record levels last year.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that 40,829 offences involving a knife or sharp object were recorded for 2018 in England and Wales – marking a 6% hike on the year before.
Murder and manslaughter also spiked to 732 killings up from 655 on the previous 12 months.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott accused ministers of failing to face up to the link between cuts to policing and rising crime levels.
“Once again, these are deeply troubling crime figures under this government," she said.
“Members of the public and police officers are both increasingly concerned about the growth of serious crime including knife crime.
“The government is failing in one of its most basic duties, to protect its own citizens. These reckless cuts must end.”
Her colleague, Shadow Policing Minister Louise Haigh, also condemned another “shocking” rise in violent crime.
The MP told PoliticsHome that while the Conservatives have started to listen as violent crime has spread to “non-traditional victims of violent crime”, initiatives such as the Knife Crime Summit and Serious Violence Taskforce had so far amounted to "talking shops".
She said: “For the party that describes themselves as the party of law and order I would say that their neglect and disruption of our police service has been the greatest tragedy of the last nine years of Tory rule.
“The Government knows full well what they need to do to bear down on the scourge of violent crime they just don’t have the political will or capacity to do it.”
A Police Federation spokesperson said: “The latest ONS police recorded crime figures for England & Wales for the year ending Dec 2018 have just been published - Murder rate up, robberies up, knife crime up, sexual offences up. How much more evidence does the Government need before it accepts we’re in crisis?”
Policing minister Nick Hurd however said the official statistics showed that “your chance of being a victim of crime remains low” and Metropolitan Police figures suggest efforts to tackle violent crime is having an impact.
“Yet too many people are still falling victim to serious violence, which is why we will continue our urgent and unprecedented action to reverse this terrible trend," he said.
“We have given police forces additional powers and have this year put more than £1billion extra into policing, including council tax and £100million specifically for those areas worst affected by violent crime.
“But law enforcement alone is not the answer which is why our Serious Violence Strategy puts a greater focus on prevention, including by consulting on a proposed new duty to underpin a public health approach to serious violence and investing over £220million in projects to steer young people away from crime.”
The ONS knife crime figures do not include records for Greater Manchester Police.