In focus: Homicide across the decade

This post is one of a series of articles that make up Thames Valley Violence Reduction Units 2022/23 Strategic Needs Assessment. To read the rest, visit www.tvvru.co.uk/strategic-needs-assessment

Despite a fall in the overall level of serious violence in the Thames Valley, the number of people losing their lives through homicide remains too high. In 2021, more people lost their lives than at any point since 2017.

To help us understand what is going on, the VRU have made use of returns we submit to the Home Office following homicides in the Thames Valley. Analysis of data from 2010 to 2021 has helped us understand more about what is happening, and where there might be opportunities to prevent further tragedies from occurring.

So here’s what we know:

Whilst there is increasing attention on violence affecting young people, they are not the most frequently victimised groups

We know that whilst younger people are not more frequently victimised, those between 18-21 are the most frequent age group to be linked to a homicide as a suspect.

We know that as a general rule, homicides most commonly take place between individuals of similar ages. In the plot below you can see a generally linear relationship between the age of the suspect(s) in a homicide, and the age of a victim. This is true apart from a number of cases over the last decade that have involved young children (generally under-5) who have been killed by an adult.

The location and circumstances of homicides have changed over the past decade

An increasing number of homicides now take place in public spaces, which is perhaps reflective of an increase in non-domestic homicide.

Homicides that have been classified as a domestic dispute have been the most commonly occurring category between 2010 and 2021:

Drugs are becoming a more common factor in homicides in the Thames Valley, and whilst “drug related” homicides still represent less than a third of the total, this proportion has increased. There is still more to be done to understand potential role that drugs have had in homicides in recent years.

We also know that whilst provisional data shows that around 15% of those identified as a suspect have previously had a conviction for a serious offence, over half do not (data is missing on the rest). There’s some room to improve our data quality here, and over the next year we will work to join up datasets to uncover new insights about those involved in homicide.

Knives and blades are increasingly common in homicides

Increased attention has been placed in recent years on knife crime and the role of knives and blades in violence. Knives and blades are increasingly commonly used in homicides:

Click to view count of offences

There are areas of the Thames Valley that have seen multiple homicides in the past ten years

Using middle super output areas to aggregate the number of homicides, we can see that several MSOAs in the force have seen a number of homicides over the past eleven years. It makes sense that we would see more homicides in areas with a higher population, but during 2022 we should do more to identify whether there are commonalities in the locations where public space homicides take place in.

(This map includes only homicides where a confirmed location is available within crime recording systems. 160 homicides in the past eleven years are included on the map.)

What next?

We have a clear vision for the Thames Valley: no one should lose their life early through homicide.

During 2022/23 the Violence Reduction Unit will continue to work with Thames Valley Police on a joint homicide reduction strategy. More details about the work will be published later on this year.