But Home Office figures show overall crime remained stable or even fell despite the August riots
The murder rate in England and Wales rose by 5% last year to 636 but overall crime remained stable or even fell despite the August riots, according to Home Office figures.
The quarterly crime figures covering the 12 months to September 2011, however, reveal a worrying rise in robbery and some kinds of theft, including a 10% rise in robberies at knifepoint to 15,313.
About half of all robberies, including the theft of smartphones, bags and cash, took place in London. The British Crime Survey (BCS) also shows a "statistically significant" 11% rise in 'personal crime', which covers violence and thefts in the street as opposed to 'household crime', compared to the previous 12 months. These levels of personal crime were last seen in 2004/05.
But the Home Office figures, published on Thursday, also show continuing sharp falls in gun crime, down 13%, and drops in domestic burglary, car crime, vandalism and violence against the person.
The overall picture from the two sets of official crime figures show that crime remained stable over the 12 months to September with the BCS, which is based on interviews with 45,000 people, showing no statistically significant change. The police recorded crime figures show a 4% fall over the same period. This is the last set of crime figures to be published by the Home Office. The Office of National Statistics will take over for the next set when they are published in April.
The murder rate in 2010/2011 in England and Wales rose to 636, an increase of 28 murders, including the 12 victims of the Cumbrian shootings. This is a rise from the 608 murders recorded in 2009/10 which was the lowest murder rate seen for 11 years.
The police figures show a 19% fall in gun crime offences, down from 7,749 to 6,285 offences.
The Home Office said the August riots had only a small impact on the overall crime rate, partly because of the way the official counting rules operate. The official police figures link about 5,000 offences to the riots, including 184 incidents of violent disorder, but do not actually class any of them as riot.
The official definition of a riot involves 12 or more people using violence to make others fear for their safety, while violent disorder involves groups of three or more people.
A total of 5,112 crimes were officially recorded as directly relating to the riots between 6 and 11 August last year compared with a total of 344,937 offences recorded across England and Wales during that month. This compares with a total of 4,062,866 crimes recorded by the police in the 12 months to September 2011.
Part of the explanation for the small impact of the riots on the overall crime rate lies in the fact that the counting rules are based on the number of victims involved rather than the number of offenders. The Home Office said that if five people burgle a shop, it would be recorded as one victim-based offence of burglary.
The latest BCS figures showed a significant rise in the number of people who say police and councils are doing a good job dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour ? up to 57% of all those questioned, from just over half a year ago.
The policing minister, Nick Herbert, said the latest figures showed a mixed picture and couldn't be used to show there was a long-term change in either direction: "There are areas of concern and, as we have consistently said, crime remains too high. We know good policing makes a difference and are freeing up the police to focus resources on the frontline," he said.
"There is a danger that divergence between the two sets of figures presents a confusing picture to the public. We want people to have accurate and clear crime data that is easy to access and understand."
Jon Murphy of the Association of Chief Police Officers said the figures reflected the continuing efforts to reduce crime, protect the public from harm and improve public confidence in policing.
He said the increase in pickpocketing, robbery and robbery with knives were a continuing cause for concern: "This has been driven by a rise in robberies of personal property and police forces will want to focus actions on tackling these offences and offering crime prevention advice."