Hospital data shows seven-year fall in serious violent crime in England and Wales has halted. The figures show an increase of 1,009 in the number of female victims over 50 from 5,156 in 2014 to 6,165 last year – a 20% increase. Written by Alan Travis Home affairs editor for the http://www.the guardian.com

Decline in violent crime ends as attacks against older people rise

A steady seven-year decline in serious violent crime in England and Wales has come to an end with a significant increase in attacks against people aged over 50, particularly women, according to new hospital data.

Returns from 91 hospital emergency departments, minor injury units and walk-in centres show that 210,215 people needed treatment after being violently attacked in the 12 months to September 2015.

Attacks on women over 50 appear to have soared by 20% from 5,156 in 2014 to 6,165 in 2015, according to the hospital data, and though the researchers say the figures are reliable, they have little idea why more attacks on older women are happening.

The authors of the annual study by the violence research group at Cardiff University said that after successive annual falls in the number treated for violent crime injuries in England and Wales, this is the first time since 2008 that the data has shown little change.

“It is possible that the long steady decline in violence in England and Wales has come to an end,” said Prof Jonathan Shepherd, one of the study’s authors. The study points out that the 210,215 people needing hospital treatment after being attacked last year is 102,818 fewer than in 2010.

The findings precede Thursday’s publication of the official annual crime figures for 2015 by the Office for National Statistics. The results are consistent with the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which shows little change in the violent crime rate over the same period.

They are, however, at odds with police recorded crime data, which showed a 27% increase in incidents involving violence against the person in the 12 months to September 2015, including a 16% rise in the sub-category of violence with injury.

The Cardiff academics say the police figures should be regarded as unreliable because of the large impact of changes in police recording practices and trends in reporting.

As further evidence of the unreliability of police figures, they cite research showing that the installation of CCTV camera systems leads to an 11% rise in police recording of violence but a 3% fall in the numbers getting hospital treatment after being violently attacked.

Shepherd said cuts in funding for CCTV monitoring systems and crime analysis could be one reason why the fall in violent crime has levelled off.

“Potential explanations for this trajectory include disinvestment by local authorities and police forces in real-time CCTV monitoring and in crime analysis – often considered to be a back-room function,” he said.

“Public health practitioners and policymakers responsible for tackling community violence in England and Wales need to take note, and consider refreshing current violence prevention initiatives, especially if trends in 2016 are similar. The modern crime prevention strategy, published in March 2016, is welcome from this perspective,” he added.

While the study shows no significant change in the number of violent crime victims receiving hospital treatment, it does show strong variations in the violent injury rates among different age groups.

The 8% increase in attacks on people over 50 breaks down into an increase of 744 or 6% in the number of men needing hospital treatment from 12,055 in 2014 to 12,799 last year and an increase of 1,009 in the number of female victims over 50 from 5,156 in 2014 to 6,165 last year – a 20% increase.

The most likely victims remain younger men aged between 18 and 30 because of higher levels of alcohol consumption, the need to establish a strong masculine identity and the fact that they are the group most likely to be walking home alone late at night. The number of victims in this age group fell by 4% last year.

The research also provides the only national measure of the number of children under the age of 10 who have been victims of violent crime. The latest figures show that their injury rate fell by a further 9% last year after an 18% decrease in 2014.

The study also confirms that serious violent crime peaks at weekends and in May, August and December.

Source: The Guardian