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Rise in number of people in Wakefield caught with knives and guns

Knives handed in to police during a previous amnesty campaign.
Knives handed in to police during a previous amnesty campaign.

The number of people caught with guns and knives in Wakefield has increased by almost a third, according to the latest police recorded crime statistics.

There were 206 weapons possession offences between April 2017 and March 2018, according to data by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). These can include hand guns, knives and even corrosive acid.

That figure is up 29.6 per cent on 2016-17, when 159 incidents were recorded.

The statistics are based on crimes reported to the police, and the ONS urges caution in interpreting some of these figures.

Some offences go unreported while others may be more numerous due to a change in the focus of the police or greater public attention.

However the ONS’ Caroline Youell said that along with weapons offences, the number of stabbings and killings has genuinely gone up.

Ms Youell added: “There have been increases in some lower-volume ‘high-harm’ offences such as homicide and knife crime, consistent with rises over the past three years.

“However, the latest rise in gun crime is much smaller than previously seen.”

Across England and Wales there was a 16 per cent increase in offences with knives or sharp objects and a 12 per cent rise in homicides - murders and manslaughters - excluding charges from the Hillsborough disaster and terror attacks.

Alex Mayes, policy and public affairs adviser for charity Victim Support, said: “It’s truly shocking to see these rises in homicides and violent crime such as knife crime.

“While overall crime levels are generally stable, these increases in some high harm crimes are concerning. Too many lives are being shattered by these violent crimes.”

Overall, police recorded crime in Wakefield increased in 2017-18.

During the last year 36,222 crimes were recorded, up by 13 per cent on 2016-17.

That means there was a rate of 106 crimes per 1,000 residents during 2017-18, above the England and Wales average of 82.

There were 1,906 residential burglaries reported in Wakefield. Due to a change in how the ONS categorises burglaries, the localised figure cannot be compared with other years.

There have been three homicides, which are murders or manslaughters. There were six cases of death or injury by dangerous driving.

Theft, one of the most high volume crimes, has increased by 2 per cent. Drugs related offences slightly rose by 1.4 per cent.

Ms Youell said: “Most people don’t experience crime. The figures show a fairly stable picture in England and Wales for most crime types.

“We have seen continued increases in some theft offences such as vehicle-related theft and burglary, while computer viruses have fallen.”

According to the ONS police numbers are at their lowest level since 1996, when comparable records began, and nearly half of investigations into recorded crimes are closed without a suspect being identified.

Chief Constable Bill Skelly, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “We take rises in crime very seriously. Police forces are targeting crime hotspots, using powers of stop and search and active engagement with communities to prevent violence.

“The causes and drivers of rising violence and related crimes are complex, and so the solutions must focus on early intervention and involve a range of action from government, education, health, social services, housing and victim services.

“To bring down robbery and burglary police target prolific offenders and links to organised crime but we also need the public to help by taking simple crime prevention measures.”

Criminal damage, which includes arson and vandalising cars and houses, has gone up, from 4,294 incidents in 2016-17, to 4,470 in the latest figures.

While violence with injury, which includes assault, GBH and wounding, has risen, this could just be due to improved police recording as opposed to an increase in incidents.

Similarly sexual crime statistics are hard to judge as many more victims are now coming forward due to a series of high profile cases.

In Wakefield there were 1,071 incidents recorded in 2017-18, a 52 per cent rise on the previous year, when 704 crimes were reported.

There were also 3,310 cases of stalking and harassment reported over the same period.

Ché Donald, vice chairman of the Police Federation for England and Wales, commented: “These new figures are proof, as if we even needed it, that policing in the UK is on the critical list.”

Police and Fire Service Minister Nick Hurd said the ONS is clear “that the likelihood of being a victim remains low however, every violent crime is a significant concern and the Government is taking decisive action to tackle it.”

“We recognise that crime is changing and that police demand is becoming increasingly complex,” he continued.

“The statistics show that there has been a societal shift towards victims reporting ‘hidden’ crimes to the police and we welcome that more victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence are feeling empowered to come forward.”

Mr Hurd added that the Serious Violence Strategy was helping turn youngsters away from gangs and violence.