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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 July, 2003, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Violence edges up as crime drops
Pensioner watches a burglar
Fear of crime is high despite falls in actual offences
The number of violent crimes recorded by police in England and Wales has risen slightly, new Home Office figures show.

But overall crime levels have fallen slightly in the year to April, continuing a decline that started in the early 1990s.

However, research published at the same time suggests most people still believe crime is on the increase.

New police methods of recording crimes have meant certain offences appear to have increased dramatically.

Among the dramatic increases said to be at least partly caused by the new system are a 22% leap in violent crime and a 27% rise in female rape from 8,990 to 11,441 cases.

The National Crime Recording Standard, introduced last April, is described by the Home Office as "recording a crime when a victim reports it, rather than leaving it up to the police to decide".

When the new approach is taken into account, the figures show a modest rise in violent crime of 2%, with offences like assault and harassment up 5%.

Crime statistics by region and key offences

On the same day BBC Radio 5 Live was told that 60% of young criminals could be suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which was leading them to crime.

The Youth Justice Board has launched its own research because it is so concerned about the problem - not usually taken into account by police and the courts.

Consultant paediatrician Dr Geoffrey Kewley said he believed most cases were genetic, but 95% could be helped.

The government has been accused of using the new method of recording crime to cloud the issue of crime statistics.

With the adjusted figures still showing a slight rise in violence, researchers said much of it was drink-related "thuggish behaviour", involving men, which did not result in injury.

The adjusted police figures show that in total, crime fell by 3%.

Murders up

Even under the old figures there was an 11% decrease in robberies (adjusted to a 14% drop) and just a 1% increase in burglaries (adjusted to a 1% drop).

One unusual result in the statistics was an 18% increase in the number of murders, manslaughters and infanticides from 891 to 1,048.

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The rise is explained because 172 of Harold Shipman's estimated 215 victims have been included in this year's figures.

The results of the British Crime Survey, a large survey of 40,000 adults, have also been released on Thursday.

Officials prefer the BCS because it includes offences not reported to the police.

This year it showed a similar fall to the adjusted recorded crime statistics, though an eight-year downward trend appears to be levelling off.

However, almost three-quarters of those surveyed said they believed crime had increased in the last two years.

Stranger violence

The Home Office said that may reflect media portrayal of crimes.

Those who read tabloid newspapers were far more likely to think crime was increasing than readers of broadsheets, it added.

But the BCS did detect increases in violence against strangers, something that will concern the Home Office.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said the new approach to crime figures was more accurate and better for targeting resources.

We now have more accurate methods of recording crime than anywhere else in the developed world
Paul Cavadino
"With its victim-centred approach to recording crime, it will help to produce more honest and transparent crime figures...

"I am very pleased that the police are recording more incidents of low level thuggery and yobbish behaviour."

But Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust, said the figures were "devastating".

"I am sure that yet again the government will try to deceive the public and blame the rise in crime on new crime reporting procedures."

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said: "The rise in violent crime is extremely worrying, and shows yet again that the government is making no headway at all in tackling disorder."

The BBC's Andrew Burroughs
"The Home Office says the figures actually represent a 3% fall"

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