Knife and gun crime increases in Avon and Somerset

Knife and gun crime has increased in Avon and Somerset in the past year, new figures show.

Detail of a Police officer
Detail of a Police officer

Knife and gun crime has increased in Avon and Somerset in the past year, new figures show.

Anti-knife crime charity the Ben Kinsella Trust said it is distressing to see violent crime figures heading "the wrong way" after knife and gun offences across England and Wales rose last year.

Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics show Avon and Somerset Police recorded 1,257 offences involving a knife or sharp object in the year to March, up 9% from 1,154 the year prior.

It was ​also up​ from pre-pandemic levels, with 950 offences logged in the year to March 2020.

It means the rate of knife crimes stood at 72 per 100,000 people last year – ​below​ the national rate of 82 per 100,000.

Firearm offences also increased slightly in the area as Avon and Somerset Police recorded 81 crimes last year, up from 78 the year prior.

There were five gun offences for every 100,000 people in the area last year, while the overall rate across England and Wales was 10 per 100,000.

Nationally, 48,900 knife and sharp object offences were recorded in the past year – up from 44,600 the previous year, but below 55,100 in the year to March 2020.

Patrick Green, CEO of the Ben Kinsella Trust, said the national increase in knife crime demonstrates that "despite lots of tough talking and promise", not enough has ben done to tackle the problem.

Mr Green added: "With more austerity cuts looming, we must not repeat the mistakes of the past and reduce police funding and cut youth services."

"Only through strong enforcement and investing in prevention and early intervention services can we hope to make any headway against this growing menace."

Police forces across England and Wales also recorded a slight increase in firearm offences – there were 5,750 in the year to March, up from 5,715 the year prior.

The Home Office said an increase in the number of violent crimes recorded in recent years is thought to be driven by improvements in police recording practices.

The figures show 115 people were hospitalised nationally due to an assault with a firearm and more than 4,000 were hospitalised for assault by a sharp object last year.

A Home Office spokesperson said the figures fail to account for the impact of the pandemic on crime and added the levels of knife crime and offences involving a firearm remain lower than they were before the pandemic.

“We are determined to tackle violent crime and it is why police funding this financial year will total up to £16.9 billion, with the number of officers on our streets already at a 10-year high thanks to the Police uplift programme," they added.

A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesperson said officers are committed to preventing violent offences and added tackling knife crime and removing weapons from the streets are "top priorities".

"Every weapon removed from the streets is possibly a life saved," the NPCC added.

"The harm caused by knife crime to families and communities is devastating and the issue remains a top priority for policing but is not something that can be solved by policing alone."