Donald Trump has erroneously linked a rise in recorded crime in the UK to the “spread of radical Islamic terror” in his latest outburst on Twitter.
“Just out report: ‘United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror.’ not good, we must keep America safe!” wrote the US president.
The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), in its quarterly update on crime on Thursday, reported a 13% increase in all police-recorded offences across England and Wales.
The ONS said police had recorded 5.2m offences in the year to June, including gun crime, knife crime, robberies, sexual offences, stalking and harassment, burglary and car crime.
The report barely mentions terrorism other than to refer on one occasion to the impact recent terrorist attacks in Britain had on the headline murder rate. Thirty-five people were killed in the incidents in London and Manchester.
The president’s attention to the crime figures will not please Downing Street, as there were aspects of the ONS report that would have sounded political alarm bells, namely the acceleration in the rise in the number of police-recorded incidents of violent crime in the past two years. There were double-digit increases in certain types of violent crime, such as gun crime, knife crime and sexual offences.
The tweet was immediately seized on by far-right groups and commentators. It was retweeted by the former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson.
The newspaper columnist Katie Hopkins quoted Trump’s tweet with a reference to “child rape squads”, which was in turn retweeted by Paul Watson, the alt-right conspiracy theorist.
Others criticised Trump for linking the crime statistics with a rise in Islamist extremism.
Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general at the Muslim Council for Britain, who campaigns against misrepresentation of Muslims in the media, called the tweet “incompetent”.
The Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, likened the post to a hate crime.
Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat MP, accused Trump of spreading fear.
Caroline Lucas, the Green party co-leader, challenged the prime minister, Theresa May, to condemn Trump.
Yvette Cooper, Labour MP and chair of the home affairs select committee, called the tweet “ignorant”.
Trump’s concern to “keep America safe” comes at a time when gun control is once again on the political agenda after the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual on US soil.
Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds at a music festival in Las Vegas with one of 23 legally purchased guns he had in his hotel room.
Trump has previously exaggerated the impact of so-called radical Islamism on life in Britain. During his presidential campaign, he suggested that police in London feared for their lives because of the significant number of radicalised individuals in the capital.
In remarks made shortly after he called for a “shutdown” of Muslims entering the US, he said: “Look at what happened in Paris, the horrible carnage, and frankly, if you look at Paris, and I hate to do this because the Chamber of Commerce is going to go crazy, but Paris is no longer the same city it was.
“They have sections in Paris that are radicalised, where the police refuse to go there. They’re petrified. The police refuse to go in there. We have places in London and other places that are so radicalised that the police are afraid for their own lives. We have to be very smart and very vigilant.”
The England and Wales data published on Thursday included a 27% rise in gun crime to 6,696 offences, a 26% increase in knife crime to 36,998 offences, robberies up 25% to 64,499, sexual offences up 19% to 129,700, and stalking and harassment up 36% to 243,086 reported incidents.