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Crime Rising in UK, Ending Decades-Long Trend, as Police Numbers Keep Going Down

© Sputnik / Evgenia Filimianova / UK police officers
UK police officers - Sputnik International
As the Police Federation of England and Wales puts it: “We are sleepwalking into a nightmare.”

Crime has surged in England and Wales, even as the number of police officers there diminishes, says the UK's Office of National Statistics (ONS) report. Violent crimes including murder and bodily harm are on a particularly sharp rise, and the effectiveness of law enforcement has hit all-time low.

"After falling in recent decades, the overall level of crime is now stabilizing," ONS says in the report released Thursday.

And the picture is dark

Attacks using knives or other sharp instruments have risen by 16 percent to 40,147 from the previous year. This is a dramatic increase compared to the much smaller 2 percent boost in gun violence, which made up 6,492 offences.

Sarah Jones, a Labour MP who has campaigned against knife crime, has already declared a "public health emergency" and warned of an "epidemic."

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Police have warned that "feral" knife attacks are becoming more brutal, with victims being stabbed and slashed multiple times, the Independent reports. This has already caused the government to crack down on deadly weapons including the so-called "zombie knives" — brightly decorated, often serrated weapons that, due to their fancy design, "help to glamorise violence," according to the Sun.

Overall homicides, murder and manslaughter combined and mass murder incidents such as terror attacks excluded, have risen by 12 percent, with 701 incidents recorded.

Robberies have risen by 3 percent to 77,103 offences, while burglaries showed a much smaller increase of 6 percent, making 437,537 cases.

All that said, the effectiveness of law enforcement has also hit the all-time low, according to another document released by the Home Office at the same time.

The document says police forces have closed almost half — 48 percent — of all cases with no suspect identified. However, with theft offences, this figure is a whopping 75 percent.

Another figure confirms the gloomy trend, as only 9 percent of all crimes result in a charge of summon to court — fewer than one in 10 cases.

Meghan Elkin, head of crime statistics at the ONS, said the only type of crime that significantly fell since last year was computer misuse.

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The outlook is not optimistic, as the number of police officers in England and Wales has diminished from 123,142 officers last year to 122,404 as of March 31. Compared to 2010, the number of police officers dropped by 20,000 people, the Independent reported in April. At the same time, the overall police staff has increased, the figures show.

Back in April, then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd came under fire when she failed to acknowledge the connection between police cuts and rising crime. A leaked Home Office document on Rudd's then-upcoming crackdown on crime program called Serious Violence Strategy said offenders may have been "encouraged" by the lack of police resources and fall in charge rates. Rudd denied seeing the paper at the time.

"Tory government has broken its promise to protect funding, with police funding cut in real terms and fewer police officers on our streets," says Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary.

"While the government continues to deny any link between the rise in serious crime and the cuts to police officer numbers, today we see what an appalling and traumatic impact Theresa May's decisions have had on our society."

Rudd's predecessor was none other than current Prime Minister Theresa May, and during her time at the Home Office, May told the police to stop "crying wolf" over budget cuts and accused Police Federation of "scaremongering."

Now, Rudd's successor, Sajid Javid, has finally pledged to fight for more police funding, the Independent says.

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Jones, however, believes that problem goes farther than police funding.

"The roots of this problem spread far and wide," she said, according to the Independent. "It's no coincidence that annual school exclusion figures released today also show a huge rise. Increasing numbers of children are being marginalised and unsupported, and we need drastic action to turn this around."

"We have a government who recently launched their Serious Violence Strategy — yet failed to make one single mention of the falling numbers of officers, which they were rightly criticized for," says Che Donald, vice chairman of Police Federation of England and Wales.

"You would think that every time we have the same conversations about rising crime, particularly violent crime, it would be a wake-up call for the government. But instead it just feels like we are sleepwalking into a nightmare," he added.

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