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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 10:41 GMT
Will street crime crackdown work?
Is street crime crackdown the best way to tackle the problem?
Tony Blair has chaired the first meeting of a new taskforce aimed at tackling rising levels of street crime.

Before the meeting Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said concerted action was needed to combat the 25% increase in muggings and robberies across England and Wales.

Police and court authorities will work together to increase detection rates and cut delays in 10 hotspots around the country.

But is this the best way to crackdown on the rise in muggings, illegally-held weapons and drug-dealing?

Do you feel safe on British streets? What else should the government do? Would resources be better targeted solely on putting more bobbies on the beat?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

It's high time the liberal lobby were ignored. They have been putting the criminals' rights before those of the victims for years, and the current social problems are a direct result. Young thugs don't need pampering, they need to be taken into the centre of the towns they terrorise and flogged. See if that gives them any extra 'street cred'.
Gary, UK

The public want results but are not prepared to pay for it

John, UK
Well as an ex-police officer I remember one frustrating fact was the lack of support received not only from our arrogant senior management but also sadly from the British public. The public want results but are not prepared to pay for it and scream civil liberties when they get told off by a police officer for committing a minor offence. Attitudes need to change and the public needs to support the police instead of blaming them for every problem society appears to have. Let's face it the average copper is just as sick to the back teeth as the next person but even more so when your hands are tied.
John, UK

I seem to remember Tony Blair saying "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime". Fine words but little action as usual from this Government. They jump from one headline grabbing initiative to the next, but there is precious little evidence of a coherent strategy or any real progress.

The blame is not solely with the Government however. My parents would never have let me out alone or unsupervised at a young age. I still believe parents have a responsibility to teach their children right and wrong and to keep them out of trouble. Too many kids are just roaming wild and their parents have no idea where they are or what they are doing.
Jon Cooper, UK

Will street crime crackdown work? This depends very much on your definition of work If you take it to mean will it drastically reduce crimes against the person, then no, of course a number of people who are part of the problem, not the solution getting together for a chinwag won't work. If, however, you take the Blair/New Labour definition of work, i.e. "will it deflect flak until the next sleazy scandal comes along?" then sadly it probably will.
David Packer, UK

Has it occurred to anyone that most of the young people perpetrating these crimes are the products of parents who were products of Margaret Thatcher's 1980s policies? Chickens have come home to roost, and in some ways it's a real shame that the Tories don't have to deal with the consequences of their 18 years in government. After all, they claimed there were more police officers under them, but crime still managed to soar!
Steve, UK

Blair and Blunkett are like an overplayed, cracked record. Side "A" is another re-release of their old favourite: "Crackdown on Crime", and Side "B" features: "Release Prisoners Early". The fact that the sentiments expressed in these themes directly contradict each other seems to have escaped their notice - and suggests that this record is purely commercial and lacking in any intellectual depth.
Chris B, England

Everyone seems to assume that youth crime arises spontaneously whereas it really arises from poor parenting by feckless or clueless parents whose dire influence on their children then contaminates others in the "gang" mentality. A major attack on youth crime has to make use of existing legislation. We don't want more prisons where youths can achieve a sense of criminal community and present criminality as an alternative way of life. Instead we need to force parents of these criminals to stop blaming everybody and take some responsibility.
Nick, UK

If we are to retain the civil rights we've established for people over recent decades perhaps zero tolerance is an answer. The risk of being prosecuted for doing 35 mph in a 30 mph zone is a small price to pay if I can leave my car somewhere without it being broken into or vandalised, can walk into town without being harassed or don't have to wake up to count the cost of last night's vandalism to my property.
Andy J, UK

Let's stop messing about with a slap on the wrist approach and jail offenders for their crimes regardless

Billy Cameron, England
We need to show robbers, muggers and thieves that we will not tolerate it any longer and they will be severely punished. Let's stop messing about with a slap on the wrist approach and jail offenders for their crimes regardless of how many offences they have committed. If we stop punishing motorists for parking in the wrong place and use the resources to combat real crime we might just make the streets safer. It seems most other countries manage this except us. Why?
Billy Cameron, England

What the government should be asking itself is, why has street crime, vandalism and general behaviour got so much worse since Labour have been in power? We were promised a more harmonious society under them.
Dennis Wills, UK

'Street crime is out of control, so let's have a meeting about it.' What a way to run a country.
Rodger Edwards, UK

We need a high police presence and the odd visible armed one to reassure criminals that the police mean business. Then from the government, the courts and the public MUST support the police 100%.
Keith Jones, UK

So Altaf believes that "freedom and democracy" have created a "disease that has infected these criminals". Well its not infected me in that way - anybody else care to blame capitalism, freedom and democracy for crime? No doubt he'll be telling us that crime doesn't exist in countries with dictatorships or Sharia law !
Steve, UK

You will never eradicate crime

Altaf, UK
The UK and all Western countries believe in freedom and democracy and a "do what you like" culture, creating a disease that has infected these criminals. You will never eradicate crime in the West; you just have to live with it until an area of accountability existing within capitalism comes into being.
Altaf, UK

To Altaf, UK: Are you implying that crime only exists in the West? There are murders, rapes, robberies and kidnappings all over the world. There always have been. In fact, more prosperous societies have lower rates of crime than the developing world. I don't understand your point of view.
Shawn, Washington, DC, USA

Once an area has been identified as high crime then the police should establish a 24/7 presence there until the rate of crime falls to an acceptable level. There is too much fortress mentality in police forces, especially the Met. This has led to the closure of many police stations when the reverse should be happening. If a housing estate or commercial area is a problem then the police should be there. Finally, all police canteens should be shut immediately. It will force the police out onto the streets to eat, if for no other reason.
Stephen Tilley, UK

People are reassured by seeing a police officer strolling down the road

Michael, Dublin, Ireland
There's no point in having a major anti-crime effort if you don't increase policing levels; all you will achieve is to demoralise and exhaust the police force. People are reassured by simply seeing a police officer strolling down the road. Ideally there should be a national taskforce that concentrates on eliminating those dodgy areas that nobody likes to walk through.
Michael, Dublin, Ireland

Another Downing Street summit chaired by the Tony Blair being hailed as a success. Political stunts like these never cure anything!
Mac, Scotland

Crime will continue to be the career choice for the average tearaway

David, Denmark
It is unlikely that the police have the resources for this crime crackdown. They are all too busy penalising motorists. The liberals in our society are more inclined to find excuses for criminals than to employ any effective deterrent and fail to realise that the state of our nation can be directly attributed to their babying of young criminals. Why bother with a crime crackdown when the hands of the police and the courts are effectively tied? Until the government gives the courts the powers to punish offenders, crime will continue to be the career choice for the average tearaway.
David, Denmark

So the police are going to make a concerted effort are they? When? In between issuing the extra paperwork on why they have dared to stop or search a suspect? The police are already working their socks off but are hampered by ineffectual court processes and a government supporting absurd liberal policies. Messrs Blair and Blunkett, things will only change when you stop worrying about the spin and support the police with the powers they really need!

We don't want to go back to the old days

Adam Taylor, UK
I live in a racially sensitive town and I know what this town needs is some compromise. We don't want to go back to the old days when we had order but the people had no civil liberties. Nor do we want to keep what we have in the present i.e. the civil liberties of the criminals taking precedence over that of the victims. Just some balance between the two would take us a long way, and show that Britain is a forward-thinking country.
Adam Taylor, UK

This government's crackdown on crime will have the same effect as the crackdown on NHS waiting lists. Some crimes will be targeted at the expense of others to try to give the impression of an improvement. What is needed is a policy of "tough on crime, tough on criminals". Now haven't I heard something like that before? Take a look at Lord Woolff's report to release young killers and see how far the crackdown on crime will go.
James, England

If zero tolerance were implemented then everyone would get a ticket, thus alienating the police even further

Nick Brown, England
As a serving bobby all in favour of an approach like zero tolerance, it has to be taken into account that traffic will come under this blanket. Believe it or not, far more people get off with a verbal warning than get tickets. If zero tolerance were to be implemented then this would mean everyone would get a ticket thus alienating the police even further. The British public have shown that they are only interested in police enforcing laws that they don't break with the old phrase "Have you not got anything better to do?" Well, you wanted zero tolerance and you have it.
Nick Brown, England

Respect for law and order does not begin with your first arrest

Brian Naylor, England
I fully support policeman Nick Brown's position. We don't need to bog the police down with even more paperwork and attending court when they could be out doing their real job. However, where do you draw the line? Blunkett's current tactics of spend more to arrest and jail more simply won't work without getting to the root of the problem. Respect for law and order does not begin with your first arrest, it begins at an extremely early age in the home. How do you change the ingrained attitudes of disrespectful and dysfunctional families in order to move forward? I know, let's incarcerate a few of them....
Brian Naylor, England

The answer to the problem is simple, give the police the necessary power to deal effectively with the problems that the criminal fraternity impose on society. Put victims first and treat them as first class citizens not third class and take away these social rights from any criminal who is found guilty beyond doubt. If criminals opt out of the basic laws and rules of our society but call for them to be re-invoked when they get caught, how can this be? Laws are only there for the people who wish to be governed by them. Society can only exist when there are laws that everybody abides by.
Paul Roberts, England

Clearly the UK has a culture of violence

John Andrew, New Zealand
I came to New Zealand in my youth, returned to the UK in 1984 and was amazed at the ingrained culture of violence from the miner's strike to football brawls and 'streaming' through shopping malls. Clearly the UK has a culture of violence going back to the Norman conquest, embedded in the national psyche and quietly encouraged by UK nationalists who consider tough Englishmen as a factor which made Britain "great". A better approach for all UK nationalists would be to learn from hardy societies such as Japan and China where civic obedience is emphasised along with raising the nation's stature.
John Andrew, New Zealand

John Andrew, New Zealand has hit the nail on the head about the roots of the problem. Violence and civil disobediance is ingrained in our culture. With this in mind the fix needs to be a long term solution that addresses cultural issues, not just cleans up the mess for the cameras and massages statistics. More police on the beat is clearly required. The police need to better resourced, but also young people need to develop respect for the police. Parents need to play a crucial role in this as do schools. Too many children are being raised to see the police as the opposition rather than a service there for their benefit and protection. Of all the countries in the EU, you will never see such a '"them and us" attitude as in the UK.
Andy, UK

I'm afraid John Andrews's remarks are absurd. The UK doesn't have an embedded culture of violence, but it has in recent years had a culture of pandering to criminality and youthful misdemeanours. This has been inflicted on the unfortunate English by a self-appointed left-wing elite who have made a lot of money for themselves out of it and a lot of misery for the rest of us.
KW, Australia/ex-UK

It has achieved great things in New York

Maz, England
I support zero tolerance. It has achieved great things in New York. But as I read the comments by the people and sit here nodding, I simply feel the government is doing the same - nodding! It is about time they actually did what they were elected to do - listen to the people!
Maz, England

Zero tolerance is about tackling the effect not the cause

Alan P, UK
Do we really think that the US is a good model for policing? Perhaps we would be better off looking at countries that have sustained lower levels of crime and learning from their experience. Zero tolerance is about tackling the effect not the cause. We need to consider longer term solutions.
Alan P, UK

As a former UK policeman, and nine-year resident of New York City, I can tell you that zero tolerance really works. If you haven't seen it first-hand, then don't fall for the left-wing claptrap of a police state. New York is a terrific place, where for the past few years, you can walk about at all hours in relative safety. I am certain that you are safer here in New York than you are in most British towns. Fixing the root problems I hear? It can't be done, and even if it could, it would take generations. The New York experience has worked brilliantly and is now the model for cities around the world.
Neal, US/UK

Zero tolerance can cause serious concerns about civil rights

Graham, UK
Zero tolerance sounds like a great idea but in practice it can cause serious concerns about civil rights - innocent people getting arrested and harassed and a disproportionate response to some petty offences. Blair started his meteoric rise with the phrase "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime." Whatever happened to the causes of crime?
Graham, UK

A long-term crackdown is required, not an initiative lasting maybe six months that reduces crime temporarily. It's quite simple - more policemen on the streets = less chance of people getting away with it. It's the kind of maths that has escaped the leaders of the UK for years.
Ben, Australia

Put some bite into the law, and make it work!

F.H.J., England
When governments listen to people, then people will respect government. At this moment in time, the general attitude of the public is simply "No-one is listening" and even when a law IS passed, it is generally watered down to such a degree, it has no effect whatsoever! Listen carefully Mr Blair...the country is sinking and you can't blame someone else forever! Put some bite into the law, and make it work! For our children's tolerance DOES work, but at a price.
F.H.J., England

I strongly support the zero tolerance attitude and for more serious crime the "three strikes and you're out" policy. The police will do all that is asked of them, believe me they are as sick of the situation as we all are. But, support is needed from the courts, we need less of the do good, political correctness approach. I am against capital and corporal punishment, there are other ways of strict controls. Incidentally I think that advocating the return of a military national service is a bad idea. Why foist the problems of our society on to a voluntary and exceedingly professional military?
Fred, Spain

On one hand we have the promise of a crackdown on crime and on the other we have the promise of "weekend prisons" and offenders released early because of overcrowding in prisons. The honest citizen is as much a victim of the namby-pamby liberals as from the criminals themselves. This so-called crackdown on crime will fail whilst our society has no stomach for appropriate punishment, whilst the state and society are seen as being responsible for criminal behaviour rather than the individuals, and whilst the probability of being apprehended is so low. The failure of policing and the courts is more than adequately demonstrated by repeat offenders; how can it be that criminals are allowed to offend time and time again?
Peter Campbell-Burns, England

The total lack of discipline seen in many families today is the root of our problems. For a number of generations now children have been brought up with the idea that they can do what they want when they want, with no thought for anybody else and with no threat of smacking in the home and two fingers to their teachers at school. The liberal anti-smacking brigade have spawned total selfishness and a complete disregard to others. Add to that that the police turn a blind eye to basic offences like parking/cycling on the pavement, dropping litter or urinating in a public place. From small beginnings major social problems have grown, we are now reaping the rewards of a total lack of control and discipline. There is no respect for other people any more.
Wendy, England

Shouldn't the objective be prevention?

Deb, Manchester, England
In response to Wendy, my partner works with young offenders and the vast majority of them have parents who ignore major misbehaviour and then beat their children for something minor. These children are taught that serious acts of misbehaviour are OK but let somebody say the wrong thing or get on their nerves and it's OK to react with violence. The way to teach children to be decent citizens is to teach them right from wrong as early as possible, punish bad behaviour non-violently and get them to understand why it's bad, reward good behaviour, love your children and treat them with respect. It's OK punishing people when the crime has been committed but shouldn't the objective be prevention?
Deb, Manchester, England

I agree with zero tolerance - innocent citizens should not live in fear, just to make sure criminals are getting the full benefit of the doubt. But Wendy makes an important point: While we are removing the rights from parents and schools to effectively discipline children, we are currently raising the fifteen years' time batch of criminals - children with no regard for rules, including the ones that make our lives safe. The proof is already around us.
Emma, UK

A policeman walking his beat was a great deterrent when I was a teenager. Many times they would stop us and question what we were doing. Walking the beat, they got to know the families in the neighbourhood, and if we got into trouble, our parents would know about it before we got home.
Dave Miller, US/UK

Bring back national service! A two-year stint will instil some discipline into these louts

Ray S, New York
Bring back national service! A two-year stint, will instil some discipline into these louts. It would teach them civic pride, and a sense of responsibility.I am an ex-pat living in New York city for the past 16 years. I often fly home to my native London. I feel that London has become what New York was like back in the 70s and 80s. London has become dirty, very unsafe and the homeless situation in London is becoming a real problem. There is too much begging on the streets, too many muggings, you name it! If the UK Government can take on former Mayor Giuliani's zero tolerance policies then London and the rest of the UK will be a better place.
Ray S, New York, NY US

More police and harsher punishment can only do so much

Graham Lally, UK
Rather than take a leaf from the American police state policies, why are we not looking less further afield to Europe, where the young populations are treated with some kind of responsible respect, rather than just being told to behave? More police and harsher punishment can only do so much, and has the effect of pushing the problem under the rug without actually influencing and motivating the country's future into responsibility.
Graham Lally, UK

The answer is an easy one: if someone gets caught mugging or any other of these so-called street crimes then they should be given a proper punishment. Not a slap on the wrists and sent on a nature excursion. Without proper deterrents street crime will continue to rise and rise.
Jon, England

When are people going to wake up? For goodness' sake, what depths do we have to descend to before something gets done without the namby-pamby liberal brigade whining on and trying to grind their imaginary axes? Please.
Simon D, United Kingdom

Cracking down on specific areas like this will simply push the problem elsewhere

Richard Gregory, UK
Once again David Blunkett shows he is the master of reaction - rather than tackling the root causes of crime, he announces yet another crackdown. Having failed to provide sufficient resources and announcing reform plans which the vast majority of the police oppose, the government simply wishes to be seen to be "doing something". Cracking down on specific areas like this will simply push the problem elsewhere.
Richard Gregory, UK

Mr Blunkett's grandiose declaration of a crackdown on crime suggests that our home secretary's knowledge of British social history is, in some areas, wanting. Over a thousand years ago the Saxons "cracked down on crime" by forming a rudimentary policing system which was later modified and expanded by the newly arrived Normans. In 1742, in the face of a burgeoning crime wave, London's Bow Street runners were introduced in another attempt to crack down on crime, but criminals continued to have things pretty much their own way, until 1828 when the then Home Secretary, Robert Peel, announced - yep, you've guessed it - a crackdown on crime. Interestingly, Peel's solution, the founding of the Metropolitan Police, was received with mixed feelings: many people felt that Peel's more stringent methods of policing were an infringement of social and civil liberties. Does that ring a loud and very recent bell?

Moving on: five years ago, our then newly-elected government trumpeted its avowed intention to be "Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime." Years pass while we wait with baited breath to see the result. Nothing happens - or to be more accurate, crime figures soar. Suddenly, the present home secretary lumbers into action and lugubriously proclaims - albeit with the pioneering air of one who has just discovered the secret of the universe - that he intends to crack down on crime. Oh come on Mr Blunkett, Mr Blair et al. Stop wasting time telling voters what you think they want to hear. Words mean nothing. JUST GET ON WITH IT!
Chris B, England

How are the courts and prison system going to cope with the influx of new offenders?

Neal, UK
Great idea! But if and when the police conviction rate rises how are the courts and prison system going to cope with the influx of new offenders? We are told that the prisons are already at capacity. Hard talk is all very well and good from our out of touch politicians. What the whole system desperately needs is investment, it simply won't work without it.
Neal, UK

I fell victim to London street muggers in the early 80s. So I know first-hand what victims have to go through in England on a daily basis. In my view there are essentially three aspects of a solution to the problem. Firstly, a policy of zero-tolerance has to be enforced, meaning increased policing and longer jail-sentences. Secondly, hard-labour camps have to be set-up for convicted felons. There is no such thing as a free lunch, a culture of hard work has to be innoculated into convicted felons. Thirdly, social assistance, be it counselling, further training to find employment, or assistance in setting up an own business should be extended to convicted criminals.
Soji, Germany

As a black male in Shadwell, east London, I do not feel safe. We have a big Bangladeshi gang problem, a big black gang problem and a big white gang problem. A few visible police officers will stop people mugging - a rather simple solution which seems to have evaded our elected representatives who seem to have forgotten their job is to serve the people, not make knee-jerk reactions to win an election. Stop throwing money where it is not needed and throw it at the worst crime area in the UK.
D Wayne Johnson, UK

Take a journey from Kent into central London by road and see the menacing gangs of youths hanging round on the streets, defacing the fences, walls and sides of people's houses with graffiti, scratching shop windows and bus windows. Or by rail, face gangs of youths trampling all over the seats and again vandalising with impunity. And so it goes on and on, and seemingly a blind eye is turned. There are "more important" crimes to deal with, we're told. And so the youths, spoiling for attention, now turn to mugging and other street crime. We shouldn't be surprised. We should've started tackling youth crime some years ago. At least we seem to be starting now. As David Blunkett has said recently, there must be no "untouchables". People who deliberately violate the law must expect to be caught and pay the price.
Nick James, Kent, UK

There is a simple solution - give Giuliani the job

Rod Garr, US (ex-Brit)
There is a simple solution - give Giuliani the job for a year!! What an incredible job he has done in New York. And it was simple - NO TOLERANCE, by the police or the courts. Ride on the subway without a ticket in NY, you get arrested and charged! It has worked. I hope Tony Blair and his rather weak cabinet can learn SOMETHING from the NY experience.
Rod Garr, US (ex-Brit)

I remember, back in the 1970s, being warned about walking down Brick Lane in London and wondering why this situation was tolerated by the authorities! Well, it may have taken 30 years to address the problem, but better late than never, I guess!
Mark M. Newdick, US/UK

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See also:

17 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Blitz on crime 'to reclaim streets'
15 Jan 02 | Talking Point
Street crime: How safe do you feel?
11 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Head to head: Our fear of crime
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