Shocking statistics released by the Ministry of Justice have shown that in the past year 22,286 incidences of knife crime were formally dealt with by police and prosecutors, with 20% of these cases being committed by children 10-17 years old. It is clear this Government are not doing enough to tackle violent and knife crime.

These horrific crimes have impacted our local community as well, with two young men, Elton Gashaj and Mohammed Aman Ashraq tragically being taken away due to knife attacks. I was deeply shocked and saddened by these deaths and my sincere condolences and thoughts are with their family and friends. I appreciate that residents will be concerned about incidents of knife crime in Slough and their safety. I have been assured by Thames Valley Police that additional police patrols have been put in place and they are in the process of implementing a long-term plan around knife crime prevention.

However, without tackling the effects of austerity (especially cuts to youth services, education, housing and mental health and drug services), tackling rising serious crime is severely compromised. Despite claims that 20,000 police officers would be recruited, a leaked letter from the Home Secretary suggests that up to 7,000 of the promised 20,000 uplift would not be frontline officers. We desperately need proper investment, to replace what has been cut since 2010 and to meet current demands. The Thames Valley Police Force currently stands at 4,149 officers, significantly less than in 2010 (4,434), yet the Governments ‘investment’ proposals will only cover 183 additional officers, over 100 less than 2010 levels, by the end of 2021.

To address my concerns about Government plans and previous inaction on this important issue I have posed some further questions to the Cabinet Minister responsible for this area and I will continue to fight for more adequate funding and resources from central Government so our local services can tackle this issue.

I believe we need to invest in these vital services as well as ensuring there are enough police on our streets in order to tackle knife crime. Tackling this issue requires a collective approach locally as well, and I am committed to supporting schools, communities and local organisations.

Parliamentary Questions

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what estimate she has made of the number of police officers in the Thames Valley area.

A: The Home Office collects and publishes statistics on the number of police officers in each Police Force Area (PFA) in England and Wales in the annual ‘Police workforce, England and Wales’ statistical bulletin.

The number of officers in the Thames Valley area, in each year from 31 March 2007 to 31 March 2019, by headcount and full-time equivalence (FTE), can be found in open data tables available here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/817734/open-data-table-police-workforce.ods

We have also announced the allocation of 183 additional officers in Thames Valley Police by the end of 2020/21 as part of the Police Uplift Programme.

These new officers will be in addition to those hired to fill existing vacancies and the extra officers already being recruited due to the increase in police funding for 2019-20.

 

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of the availability of youth services on the level of violent crime committed by young people.

A: As set out in the Serious Violence Strategy there are a range of complex factors driving the increase in serious violence, most noticeably changes in the drugs market.

The Government is investing £220 million in early intervention and prevention initiatives to support children and young people at risk of exploitation and involvement in serious violence. We have provided £22 million through the Early Intervention Youth Fund, through which we are supporting 40 projects across England and Wales, and we are providing £200million through the Youth Endowment Fund which is a 10-year fund to prevent young people at highest risk of involvement in serious violence from becoming involved in crime and violence. Both these funds aim to support vulnerable young people to seek positive opportunities and lead lives free from violence and crime.

The Government recognises that local youth services are an important partner in tackling violent crime. In September 2019 the Chancellor announced £500million to go to a national Youth Investment Fund. This is a significant investment which will go towards building new youth centres across the country, refurbishing existing facilities, investing in activities for young people which teach important life skills, and investing in the youth work profession.

We are also providing £100million through the Serious Violence Fund in 2019/20 to the 18 police force areas worst affected by serious violence. £63.4 million of this fund was allocated to pay for an immediate surge in police operational activity; £1.6 million was deployed to improve the quality of data on serious violence; the remaining £35 million was invested in Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) which form a key component of our action to prevent violence by understanding its root causes. A further £35 million has been announced for VRUs for 2020/21.

 

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent assessment she has made of the level of knife crime in Slough constituency.

A: Statistics are collected at the Police Force Area level only. Statistics for lower levels of geography are not held by the Home Office. The Government takes seriously the levels of serious violence over recent months.

The following table shows the number of knife and sharp instrument offences recorded by Thames Valley Police for the financial year 2010/11 and the years ending June 2018 and June 2019, for the Thames Valley Police area:

Number of offences % change year to June 2019 compared with:
2010/11 1165 31
Year to June 18 1493 2
Year to June 19 1523

The Government is strengthening police numbers over the next three years and increasing sentences for violent criminals. Police will be given more powers to stop and search those who have been convicted of knife crime. 6,000 additional officers will be recruited in England and Wales by March 2021 and their ranks will be increased by 20,000 over the next three years.

Funding for policing is increasing by £1 billion this year, including council tax and the Serious Violence Fund, through which, we are providing £63.4 million to the 18 police forces worst affected by serious violence to pay for surge operational activity, such as increased patrols, and £1.6 million to help improve the quality of data on serious violence, particularly knife crime, to support planning and operations. This includes an additional £20.8 million of surge funding to the Metropolitan Police. In addition, £35 million of the Serious Violence Fund is being invested in Violence Reduction Units (VRUs), which will form a key component of our action to build capacity in local areas to tackle serious violence.

The Government will change the law so that police, councils and health authorities are legally required to work together to prevent and tackle serious violence. The Offensive Weapons Act introduces new laws which to give police extra powers to seize dangerous weapons and ensure knives are less likely to make their way onto the streets in the first place.

 

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent assessment she has made of the trends in the level of violent crime in the UK; and if she will make a statement.

A: Data collected by police forces in England and Wales shows that there has been an increase in rates of robbery, knife possession, offences with a knife or sharp instrument and offences involving violence against an individual. See table below for exact statistics:

Published data – Selected violent offences[1] recorded by the police in England and Wales: % change year to June 2019 compared with:
England & Wales Year to June 2010 Year to June 2018 Year to June 2019 Year to June 2010 Year to Mar 2018
Robbery 74,888 79,164 87,361 17 10
Homicide 628 719 681 8 -5
Knife possessions 10,652 18,879 22,962 116 22
Violence against the person offences 693,632 1,469,727 1,655,146 139 13
Offences with a knife or sharp instrument excluding West Midlands, Sussex and Greater Manchester Police[2] [3] 27,319 37,281 39,504 45 6

[1] The selected offences are: homicide, attempted murder, threats to kill, assault with intent to cause serious harm, assault with injury, & robbery.

[2] West Midlands and Sussex police force included unbroken bottle and glass offences in their returns prior to year ending March 2011 but have excluded these offences in line with other forces since then. As such, they need to be excluded when comparing with years prior to 2010/11.

[3] Data from Greater Manchester Police are excluded. This force reviewed their recording of knife or sharp instrument offences in December 2017. This revealed that they were under-counting these offences. Following this review, there has been a sharp increase in the number of knife or sharp instrument offences recorded by GMP in 2018 compared with previous years. Previous data have not been revised and the data are therefore not comparable. Due to this, data from GMP have been excluded from the table.

About half the rise in knife/gun crime and robbery is thought to be due to improvements in police recording. However, we know from our analysis of the drivers of serious violence that the drugs market is also a major factor contributing to the increase in the rates of these crimes.

Violent crime has a devastating impact on victims, families and the wider community. That is why we are giving the police the resources and tools they need to keep families, communities and our country safe; this includes recruiting 20,000 new police officers and making it easier for them to use stop and search powers.

Funding for policing is also increasing by £1 billion this year, including council tax and the £100million Serious Violence Fund. This Fund is providing the critical investment needed in the 18 police forces worst affected by serious violence; such as providing £63.4 million towards surge operational activity, such as increased patrols, and £1.6 million to help improve the quality of data on serious violence, particularly knife crime, to support planning and operations. £35 million was invested in Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) which form a key component of our action to prevent violence by understanding its root causes. A further £35 million has been announced for VRUs for 2020/21.

We are also bringing forward the Serious Violence Bill which will aim to prevent and reduce serious violence by creating a new duty (and extending an existing duty) on public sector bodies to collaborate and plan with each other to prevent and reduce serious violence.

 

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps she is taking to increase the availability of youth services.

A: This government is investing £500 million over five years through the new Youth Investment Fund to increase the availability of youth services. The fund will be used to build new youth centres across the country, refurbish existing youth facilities, provide mobile facilities for harder to reach areas, and invest in the youth work profession and frontline services. Government is funding up to £7 million through the Youth Accelerator Fund that will expand existing successful projects delivering positive activities, and address urgent needs in the youth sector by delivering extra sessions in youth clubs.

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