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Friday, 21 January, 2000, 14:03 GMT
Rising crime - do you feel safe on the streets?

Crime in England and Wales has risen for the first time in six years, with robbery - mostly muggings on the street - up by 19%.

Home Secretary Jack Straw has admitted a police reluctance to use "stop and search" tactics following the Stephen Lawrence inquiry could be a factor, and he also points to wide variations in performance across the different forces.

Police officers on the beat blame underfunding and an increasing workload.

What do you think? Do you still feel safe on the streets? Should the police get more funds and step up their stop and search tactics? Are there lessons to be learned from your local force or from other parts of the world?

And do you have first hand experience of this rising tide of crime? Email now.

One of your commentators claims that the reason that blacks are disproportionately represented in crime statistics is because we commit more crimes than other ethnic groups. He is both right and wrong. Perhaps there are more instances where blacks have committed petty muggings but I can assure you whites consistently feature more prominently. The fact is that whoever commits crime, white, black or green, it is down to the police to deal with the symptoms and it is down to us, members of the public, to ensure that children and teenagers are brought up to respect people and property.
Ray Saint, UK

Stop and search ability must be increased and the Police should be made able to patrol every street and alley in the country. I also experienced the Italian style stop and search during the summer in Verona and I have to say the way it was conducted was very professional (they soon had someone speaking to me in English) and it was all dealt with very quickly and efficiently.
A Charles, England

Correlation of statistics by Police has identified that most street crimes are committed by males aged 16 - 24. In urban areas therefore, police must target this group as potential offenders. Because ethnic groups such as Jamaicans & Pakistanis tend to be in areas with high crime rates, they must expect to be stopped and questioned more frequently than other groups.
Martin, England

Its about time we introduced a city-wide curfew for under 21's after 10pm for urbanised areas and I think that police forces should be armed with guns. More people would think twice about committing crimes then!
JW Smith, UK

Is crime a truly serious problem? As a loyal Englander, I truly hope the UK does not go the way of the US (Which has 3% of the worlds population but 27% of the world's prisoners). The US is the "Land of the Free" in name only. Racial profiling, and unheard of abuse by police is not, in my opinion, the British Way. You cannot have random stop and search without abuse. I grieve for the UK if this comes to pass.
Jason R, England

Yes I feel safe. I feel that we live in a very safe country. There are always small areas where there is danger of street crime, and there always will be, it is human nature. I have travelled throughout Europe and the Middle East, I feel we are very safe in Britain

I feel sorry for the policemen and women of today. A job which should involve close contact with the public has been reduced to officers sat in panda cars, filling in forms, covering your back all the time and being frightened to stop and search ethnic minorities because people will accuse you of being a racist. That does not help the victims of crime, but sadly is a symptom of today's society and the way we are told to think and say.

I can honestly say I have never felt safer in a large city than in London. I just returned from a week long holiday in London, and found myself feeling safer in London than if I was in any city in the United States. (Even New Year's Eve celebrants were well-behaved and surprisingly sober). Perhaps that safe feeling I had came from my knowledge that guns were much more severely restricted in the UK than the US, or perhaps it was my naivete giving me false comfort.
Michael R. Tropp, United States

Perhaps the police might do more to combat street crime if they abandoned the pointless breath-testing of thousands of innocent motorists which is a complete waste of their resources and irrelevant to the detection of hard-core drink-drive offenders.
Peter, England

I am fed up with living in a society where the law is only applied to the more law-abiding parts of the community. If one group in society disproportionately commits violent crime, then this group is a legitimate target for disproportionate suspicion, and should be stopped and searched more.
Ian, England

It is not the question whether police should stop and search. They must! Also, police patrols and/or police booths should be increased throughout the cities. I still don't understand why law forces in UK do not carry firearms. A thug can back off the police with the same weapons he or she threatened public just minutes ago. I think at least one of the patrolling officers should carry some sort of long-distance weapon.
Sasha, Scotland

Stop and search measures to prevent street crime amount to locking the barn door after the horse has bolted. At the same time the police are bound to feel uneasy about intruding on the privacy of individuals. To be realistic, we have to tackle crime at its roots to deter its spread. Safety on the streets will be achieved when children are imbued with good character, morals and ethics. This can only complement any policing programmes in force.
Simon Cameron, UK

The police must be out on the streets not drowned in paperwork. Also no limitation on who they stop and question. Any honest person will be glad they are active. Italy does well. Last year I was stopped five times in one month.
D C Lennon, UK

Unlimited stop and search is not a good answer to the crime problem it just antagonises the ordinary person who is in a hurry to get home or to work. Any country that allows unlimited stop and search and seizure has turned into a Gestapo state. Why should we give up our freedoms for this?
Anon, USA

As for stop and search. I believe that this too is a good idea, and should be used more frequently. True, blacks and Asians do tend to be targeted more, and I think that something should be done to redress the balance. The problem is that if they are targeted, then the percentage of criminals detected who are black or Asian will be high, and will rise, as these percentages will be used as an excuse to target them still further. It's a vicious circle, and something needs to be done to stop it.
Tristan O'Dwyer, England

I think that shear statistics cannot fully portray today's crime situation we should improve the state, but let us keep it in perspective
Satwant, England

This is classic media fuelled moral panic, I just wait in anticipation to see what dire threat to society we have in next weeks papers...
Aiden, UK

How can we feel safe when all we see on television these days is endless violence on news programs/crimewatch etc. I think a move to Greenland is in order!
Dave Eyrl, UK

I grew up in South Africa. Durban isn't far behind in the crime stakes. I have seen three shootouts in the middle of town, two stabbings across from my office and I have been hijacked twice. Needless to say I now have returned to the UK. I feel exceptionally safe walking the streets at night in London. That is one of the things that I love about living here. People that have been here all their lives take it for granted and they cannot appreciate just how good they have got it. Europe does have it's house in order as far as crime is concerned and we must ensure that we don't get to the levels of most of the world. Tackling the problem isn't always easy but effective policing is vital. The police here are very professional and need more encouragement from law abiding citizens. As for stop and search - I have been stopped in SA and searched but I had nothing to hide and therefore I didn't mind as I knew that the police were cleaning up the neighbourhood. The law abiding citizens of Brixton for example should feel better and safer if the police are actively stopping and searching then the criminals will have to be on their toes. If out of evey ten people stopped only one is actually in the wrong, the other nine people should be satisfied that their streets now have one less criminal on the loose regardless of their colour.
Alan, UK - ex SA

In a debate it is easy to lose sight of one important fact. Ultimately, it is the people who commit the crimes who are to blame - and who should take responsibility.
Andrew J. Chisholm, UK

I am a British citizen, and have been living in the U.S. for the past 11 years. Oddly enough, I feel safer on the streets here than I did when I lived in London. I do not believe that increased stop and search latitude for the police is the way to go. Why should the law abiding citizen be penalised and inconvenienced for the actions of the lawless few?
Dave Ashford, United States

What's all this finger pointing about? The police are not to blame for crime, criminals are. I think it's about time we all took responsibility for our society. Let's help the police not hinder them.
Paul Moore, Netherlands

There will always be those who prey upon others rather than earning their own way. If you were to tighten laws and create a more police state then you would just be encouraging criminals to co-operate together - and we end up with fully organised crime. As a young man I personally feel that the number of times I have been pulled over and questioned by police for no reason other than having a nice car, which I have worked very hard to earn, is ridiculous. If you give police more powers then they WILL abuse them.
Paul Charters, England

The police should step up their stop and search tactics and be undeterred by the activities of minority groups in the UK who are often following hidden political agendas. The UK must put its own house in order and the police are the means to this end. There is something to be learned from other countries and that is to be more forceful in the prosecution of law and order. Let the public have more detailed statistics on those who commit crimes.
G.Wallis, South Africa

I'm very concerned by the contributors supporting the idea that the police should have the powers to stop and search anyone. I may not have the same rights as a citizen in Europe or the US but as a subject I have the freedom to go about my daily business without harassment from the police. There is no way that a sensible critieria for stopping people can be drawn up, I should think most stop and searches are done a hunch from the police officers involved. A person could be stopped because the police officer does not like the sticker in your car window supporting a political or environmental organisation that the police officer might disagree with. Giving the police stop and search powers will only lead for further accusations of harassment .
Simon Atkinson, UK

If we still had capital punishment we wouldn't be having this silly debate in the first place. All you moaning liberal do-gooders deserve to get robbed and mugged etc.
Marc, England

I have now lived in several European cities, the biggest difference between any of them and a UK City, town or village is that I know I can walk to the streets at night and not feel threatened. At present I live in Sweden I feel safe enough here to walk about the city centre at 2am yet back in the UK I live in a village where just to walk to the shops in the evening can be a threatening experience: there are crowds of foul-mouthed teenagers running rampage and then later on there are drunks emptying from the pubs. I enjoy a drink as much as anyone but the difference in the UK is that it is normally accompanied with aggressive behaviour. I think the difference between the UK and our continental neighbours is one of respect for others, not police powers.
Steve Allen, Sweden

A lot of police time appears to be wasted by harassing (and alienating) youngsters and more mature people. Could it be that the police force (for its figures) and policemen are becoming more prone to concentrating on the easy options?
J Rockett, UK

I do feel safe in England, although I must admit that in years of European travel, only in London has someone (a respectable-looking woman!) attempted to pick my pocket. I think the Bobbies are great at their job; we must support them.
Bill Altman, U.S.

Statistical info in the U.S. indicates that crime levels in area's where there are fewer gun controls are lower than in area's where there are more gun controls. The UK Government should note this not simply in relation to firearms (an extreme measure in any event) but in relation to other "non lethal" forms of weaponry, all of which are illegal in this country, much to the delight of all street criminals who regard these laws "The Prevention of Crime Act 1953" etc. as a street criminals charter, since, they are assured that their (intended) Victims are prohibited by law from being able, meaningfully, to defend themselves, particularly as regards to women & sexual offences etc. or any form of armed or "mob handed" violence without themselves breaking the law & risking prosecution if the assailant is caught & prosecuted.
Chris Hoole, U.K.

I lived most of my life in Johannesburg, and believe me, Britain's streets are comparatively safe. I have been a victim many times, and I left South Africa because of the high crime rate. Muggings, high-jackings car theft and housebreaking have all sky-rocketed in recent years in Johannesburg. The police are simply overwhelmed. Police here in England should be given all necessary powers and assistance to ensure that the current levels of crime do not escalate. The fact that personal firearm ownership is illegal here contributed to my decision to come back to the UK. The police here do a good job.
Chris, England

Living in a city of 2.5 million in the United States, I feel as secure on the streets as I would in a town of 10,000. The character of the community - and the corresponding police discretion - precludes the type of violent crime I've observed in other American and European cities in which I live. I think this is due in large part to a phenomenally low unemployment rate (about 2.1%.) It seems as though rates of violent crime are inversely proportional to the number of opportunities people have to be gainfully employed in a broad range of occupations.
Scott M. Erlandson, USA

It's also worth noting that the home office recently changed the counting rules for recording crime which could explain the recent apparent rise in the figures.
Martin, United Kingdom

Crime is everywhere in any city. I think the police do a great job in answering all the cries for help for various reasons. First and foremost the people must not appear vulnerable. One must remember not to put themselves in a dangerous environment. Watch out for places where a crime may be more likely to occur. I pray for the culprit that attempts to attack me. For a female, I've built my strength and wouldn't hesitate to defend myself and I have and I won!
Melanie, USA

Maybe the police should have stop and search powers, but rising crime is not just down to policing. The police only cure the symptom. Sadly, the more materialistic the world becomes, the more crime we will have, because people steal to have things. All those things that they see on TV and in adverts that they don't earn enough to buy, but want anyway because the ad agencies have been paid to make them want it, and because half the pleasure of having something in today's world is flaunting it. This is compounded by an increasing flexibility of moral standards whereby duty has been replaced by desire. Poverty is relative, so let's say "a feeling of social exclusion" is obviously not an excuse for crime, but don't tell me it has nothing to do with it. I'd like to see the statistics for income distribution against crime rates throughout the world. I know for a fact that Brazil would come out bottom and top. I wonder where Britain would come?
Graham Bell, Brazil

How can we feel safe on the streets when America, the country our media likes to portray as ultra-violent, has far less street attacks than we do. It's rare to go out at a weekend in a city centre and not see somebody being attacked at some stage during the night but the police don't tend to bother with this sort of crime because they know the chances of a successful conviction against the attackers is virtually impossible with today's soft-touch court system. It's usually the same people who carry out these attacks week after week but they get away with it because there is little done to stop them.
Tristan Abbott-Coates, United Kingdom

Yes I do feel safe when walking, driving or at home but I'd feel better if there were more policemen on the beat and if they were left to do their job in terms of their training and experience, without being criticised one minute for not making arrests and the next for being too vigorous in their enquiries.
Melody Forrest, England

I feel it is time that the police had a right to stop and search, the social do-gooders have had their chance and have failed to change the crime figures. We should respect the law of the land and not the rights of criminals. I have had my car broken into and my home my property vandalised and the police tell me that they can do nothing about it, what a state to be in. It is about time we were harder on crime and those who commit it
Andrew, UK

I think that the police should be commended for their service and should not in any way be deterred from stopping and searching suspicious persons, regardless of their colour or ethnicity. Public safety is of paramount importance in today's increasingly lawless and violent society.
Blacks in the UK as well as here in the US will continue to be disproportionately represented in criminal statistics simply because of the fact that they do indeed commit more crimes than any other ethnic group. By reducing the use of this tactic in order to appease those vocal elements who are closely affiliated with perpetrators of criminal acts, the wellbeing of law abiding citizens is being sacrificed.
If blacks and Asians want less of their numbers queried by the police, let them make a concerted effort to keep their youth off the streets and gainfully employed or otherwise constructively occupied.
Adiv, USA

Police should have the power to stop and search anyone they are suspicious of. If this means that innocent people are stopped and searched so what! I would rather be stopped in the street by the police than some thug brandishing a knife.
C Harper, England

Yes, I do feel safe on the streets. Muggings etc will become less frequent now there is an increase in mobile phones. Also, there are far better community groups (i.e. neighbourhood watch) which will deter mindless thieves.
P. Alexander, Wales

No, I do not feel safe in the streets after 9:00pm. The reason, a year back I was robbed; just my school bag but the lucky thing was that I escaped unhurt. The robber had screwdrivers and they looked dangerous but he only used them to poke me in case I had any 'hidden valuables'. Yes, of course police should use their search tactics. Robbers will refrain from coming to the streets and less work need be done to catch them. It's a terrifying experience, to have that safety violated when confronted by one.
Selena, Hong Kong

As a regular commuter, for the past 10 years, to central London from the Home Counties, and as a regular traveller to the US, Asia and Europe, I believe we have some of the safest cities and communities in the world. Crime, and violent crime, as in many countries is often highly localised to a few districts of urban areas. The general population are little affected in the UK by violent crime, only fear of fear itself.
D Benton, England

Before Labour came to power we were told that the rising crime rates were due directly to the policies of the Tories resulting in high unemployment, poor housing, poverty etc. It all looks like it was all pure Labour propaganda now.

I must admit to feeling somewhat sceptical about the effect of police control on the streets. They don't seem to convey the right image anymore. Especially there being such short police allowed into some forces. When a policeman with helmet doesn't come to 6 foot in height it is almost laughable and I think there will be those whose reaction will not be laughter but cynicism or even contempt.
Couple this with uniforms becoming less smart, such as the shorty pacamac rainwear, and it's very unprofessional. So, to correct the feeling of unease in the street go back to smartly dressed, tall police officers who actually have a strong presence on the pavements not in the panda car.
Bob Gardiner, England

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18 Jan 00 |  UK
Street crime surges

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