Serious violence drops in England, Wales

A recent study reveals that serious violence in England and Wales experienced a notable decrease last year, despite increases in the previous two years. According to researchers from Cardiff University, this drop aligns with a longer-term downward trend in serious violence. This reduction in violence was primarily due to fewer incidents among 18 to 30-year-olds.

Lead author Professor Jonathan Shepherd from Cardiff University’s Violence Research Group commented that “England and Wales are safer now than they were a year ago, much safer than two decades ago.” The study analyzed data from 219 hospital emergency departments, minor injury units, and walk-in centers across England and Wales in 2023. The findings estimate that 141,804 people were treated for injuries in these emergency departments, which is 22,919 fewer cases (a 14% drop) compared to the prior year.

This decline is the second lowest recorded in over 20 years, with the only exception being 2020 when violence rates plummeted due to the Covid lockdowns. Following the lockdowns, serious violence saw significant increases in 2021 and 2022 as the night-time economy revived, and pandemic restrictions eased. However, the latest figures indicate a return to the steady decline observed since 2001. The most significant decrease, a 25% drop, was among 18 to 30-year-olds, a demographic typically at high risk of violence.

Professor Shepherd praised the results, stating that the reductions are “good news for the NHS and police, and for hard-pressed hospital emergency departments in particular.” Despite these encouraging trends, the authors acknowledge growing public concern about violence and knife crime, particularly among teenagers. Recent research indicates that half of all teenagers in England and Wales either witnessed or experienced in the 12 months leading up to November 2023. Additionally, police data shows an increase in knife crime recorded by all police forces in the year ending September 2023. However, NHS data suggests a decline in hospital admissions due to stabbings.

Researchers believe this change may be attributed to more effective violence prevention strategies implemented by police and other agencies. For example, police have focused on high-violence areas to reduce incidents. Additionally, the report notes that an increasing number of young adults are living at home with their parents, as observed by the Office of National Statistics, which could also be influencing these trends.

Lastly, the Cardiff research points out that in 2023, serious violence was at its peak in May, generally higher on weekends and Mondays, and lowest in January and February. This pattern could offer insights into how law enforcement and other stakeholders can continue to reduce violence in the future.

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