Knife crime rose by up to 50 per cent in rural areas in the past year as violence spread from cities, fuelled by county lines drug gangs, official figures show.
Suffolk, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Kent, Lancashire and Dyfed-Powys saw some of the biggest rises as knife crime overall in England and Wales rose by eight per cent to 43,516 offences, its highest since records began eight years ago.
At the same time, the proportion of crimes solved has fallen by half in four years, with fewer than one in 12 offences (7.8 per cent) resulting in a charge or summons. That is a fall from 9.1 per cent last year and 15 per cent four years ago.
Policing minister Nick Hurd admitted: “We are deeply concerned that certain offences, including serious violence, have increased and we are taking urgent action.
Robbery rose by 11 per cent to 85,700 offences, the number of killings increased from 693 to 701, violence against people was up 20 per cent to almost 1.7 million offences and sex crimes including rape were uip by seven per cent to 162,000.
The overall crime rate rose by eight per cent to 5.95 million offences for the year ending March 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Boris Johnson, the Tory leadership frontrunner, and Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, have pledged to reverse police cuts by recruiting an extra 20,000 officers and have backed greater use of stop-and-search to combat the knife crime epidemic.
County lines gangs, who run drugs out of cities into local communities, are blamed for the rise in rural knife crime, with Suffolk up 51.4 per cent to 221 offences, Dyfed-Powys up by 44.9 per cent to 229 and Lancashire up by 32.8 per cent to 1151.
In North Yorkshire, it increased by 31 per cent to 300, in Norfolk, it was up 27.7 per cent to 281, in Gwent by 25.9 per cent to 141, Derbyshire 23.5 per cent to 610 and Kent up 20.4 per cent to 955.
Two big cities also saw big rises in knife crime with Merseyside up 48.6 per cent to 1,404 and West Midlands up 48.6 per cent to 1,404.
By contrast, the Metropolitan police, which has surged officers onto the streets and dramatically increased use of stop-and-search slowed the rise in knife crime to just 0.9 per cent with 14,842 offences.
Sarah Jones, chair of the all party knife crime group, said: “Today’s figures show the Government has been far too slow to tackle county lines activity which sees vulnerable, armed young people trafficked into towns across our country.”
Offences involving firearms also rose by three per cent to 6,684. Theft offences remained static, at just over 2 million with burglary down by three per cent to 422,870 offences. Drug offences were up by 11 per cent to 151,500, while fraud and computer misuse crimes rose by nine per cent to 693,418.
The total number of offences solved fell by 39,496 with the proportion resulting in a charge or summons down from 9.1 per cent to 7.8 per cent.
Sex offences were least likely to be solved at 3.5 per cent followed by theft at 5.7 per cent, criminal damage and arson at 5.3 per cent, robbery at 7.4 per cent and violence against the person at 8.3 per cent.
The proportion of offences that were closed as a result of “evidential difficulties” increased from 29 per cent to 32 per cent.
Police forces closed almost half (44 per cent) of offences with no suspect identified, a similar proportion to last year.
This proportion varied by crime type with around 74 per cent of theft offences closed in this way compared with nine per cent of rape offences and two per cent of drugs offences.
Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s, Britain’s biggest children’s charity, said: “It’s unacceptable that the knife crime crisis continues unabated with offences at record levels.
“Children are not born with knives in their hands, knife crime is a symptom of a much bigger problem. Our frontline support services say vulnerable children and young people are being recruited and exploited by criminal gangs and forced to traffic drugs and carry knives.
“Urgent action must be taken so that future generations are not condemned to live in an endless spiral of violence.”