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Overall levels of violent crime have fallen by 9.0 per cent since 2002-03 and the number of serious violent offences recorded by the police has fallen by 5.9 per cent over the same period. The Home Office’s actions to encourage local areas to address domestic violence and alcohol related crime are likely to have made some contribution to this fall.

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However, the Home Office still needs to take further action to improve the delivery of funding to frontline practitioners, and also to articulate their long-term strategic approach to tackling violence. While levels of serious violence have fallen over recent years, they have done so at a slower rate than overall crime levels.

In 2006-07, there were an estimated 1.3 million incidents of violence resulting in injury; the cost of these incidents to the economy, including both economic and social costs, is estimated to be around £13 billion annually. Although crime is falling, and England’s homicide rate is low in international comparison, the threat of violence remains a significant concern: 17 per cent of adults say they worry about becoming a victim of violent crime.

The NAO found that the Home Office’s inconsistent delivery of funding, poor data sharing between local agencies and limited capacity at a local level to analyse the risks of violent crime are combining to reduce the effectiveness of wider efforts to reduce violent crime. Fewer than 30 per cent of Crime and Disorder Partnerships responding to the NAO’s survey had a written strategy specifically for tackling violent crime.

In relation to violent crime the Home Office has focused its work on addressing domestic violence and alcohol related violence through initiatives which have been well received by Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships. When asked about the changes that have brought most improvement over the last five years, more than a quarter of Partnerships highlighted the work done to tackle domestic violence, such as through the introduction of Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences.

Almost half of Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships viewed the 2003 Licensing Act as a positive tool for assisting them in tackling violence, and we saw examples of it being used effectively during our visits to local communities, most notably in Cardiff and Birmingham.

The number of 15-17 year olds convicted of carrying a blade in public nearly doubled between 1998 and 2005 from 455 convictions in 1998 to 894 in 2005 (though this is likely to be at least partly as a result of increased police activity).

This might not represent the full scale of the problem, as when police record a crime in which the offender was carrying a knife, it is not presently mandatory for them to record the presence of the weapon. Following a pilot since April 2007, from April 2008 the Home Office will require all police forces to collect data on serious violence offences involving a knife or sharp instrument.

A MORI poll conducted for the Youth Justice Board showed that in 2004, 9 per cent of young people in mainstream education and 30 per cent of young people excluded from mainstream education had carried a flick-knife in the previous year.

And over the period 1998-99 and 2005-06, recorded crimes involving a firearm more than doubled from 5,200 to 11,100. However, since then, it has fallen to 9,700 in 2006-07.

“Violent crime is an issue everyone will have read about and it is something which a fifth of the adult population have said they worry about. The rise of gun and knife crime is something that will deeply concern every community and the impacts of this sort of criminal activity can devastate individuals and destabilise communities.

“To date, the Home Office has not had a long term, strategic approach to tackling violent crime. It has this week published a new Tackling Violence Action Plan which we all hope will deliver results.”

Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office


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