Knife crime across police areas


Executive summary

  • Statistical analysis across 42 PFAs (Police Force Areas) shows that past knife crime rates and unemployment are the most important factors explaining knife crime.
  • This suggests the positive role of improving employment opportunities in reducing knife crime.
  • Any policy that reduces knife crime will have a long run positive impact because of the persistence of crime rates.


Knife crime in England and Wales has risen consistently in the last three years, particularly involving young people. While various explanations have been suggested for this sharp rise, there has been little systematic data analysis to see how some of the hypothesised factors (e.g. cuts to police funding, general public sector cuts, unemployment rates) correlate with a rise in knife crime. This is important as we need a solid evidence base to inform policy to combat this increase. With around 40,000 offences in 2018 (as compared to less than 25,000 offences in 2014) and trends of increases in Accident and Emergency admissions from knife incidents, as well as increased severity, this has huge direct societal costs and also affects people’s perception of safety.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing provide a statistical analysis to explain knife crime and theories on factors contributing to this increase. The team analysed knife crime across the 42 Police Force Areas (PFAs)* and used regression analysis to understand the impact of spending variations in police and other public services across time and PFAs, as well as that of other socio-economic factors that can potentially affect crime. Given the possible persistence of these effects, the team used past values of knife crime that also form a short hand for ‘peer effects’. 

*The City of London was excluded from the analysis due to lack of data.

Academic leads

Professor Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, Professor of Economics and Director, Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing, University of Birmingham

Professor Anindya Banerjee, Professor of Econometrics, Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing, University of Birmingham

Juliana C. Pinto, PhD student and research fellow, Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing, University of Birmingham

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