Rishi Sunak claimed during Prime Minister’s Questions on 8 March that “violent crime is now down considerably over the past few years”, with the government bringing forward new powers to improve the police’s use of stop and search making “a major difference”.
So is he right?
Has violent crime gone down?
The prime minister didn’t specify what years he had in mind for the comparison, but FactCheck understands that he’s using the 12 months before the coronavirus pandemic as the baseline.
The most reliable measure of crime is the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). This estimates the extent of crime, including crimes that are never reported to the police.
The latest ONS data – which covers the 12 months up to September 2022 – shows “no significant change” in the level of violent crime compared to the year ending March 2020.
The statisticians added that incidents of violent crime remained “broadly similar to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels”.
So why did Rishi Sunak claim that violent crime had fallen?
FactCheck understands he was referring to police recorded crime figures, which do show reductions in some types of violent crime such as knife crime and homicides.
But as regular FactCheck readers know, police records are not the most reliable way to measure the true extent of crime. That’s because many crimes are never reported to the police, and the way in which police record the crimes that do reach them changes all the time. As the ONS notes, “police recorded crime is not generally a good indicator of trends in crime”.
According to the most reliable measure of long-term crime trends – the ONS’s Crime Survey of England and Wales – violent crime incidents are similar to pre-Covid levels and have not gone down “considerably” over the past few years, despite Rishi Sunak’s claim.
Downing Street has been approached for comment.