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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 July, 2003, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Fight on crime 'being lost'
Pensioner watches a burglar
Fear of crime is high despite falls in actual offences
The government has been accused of losing the fight against crime as figures show violent crime is up, despite a slight drop in overall offences.

Overall crime levels edged down by 3% in the year to April, police figures showed, but violent crime was up 2%.

Unadjusted figures which did not take into account new methods of recording crime said violence had rocketed by 22%.

And research published at the same time suggested most people still believed crime was rising.

The Home Office said the figures for violent crime were up because they now included incidents such as pushing and shoving where no-one was hurt.

Home Office minister Hazel Blears said: "The new form of recording is looking at it from the victim's point of view, so crimes which in the past would not have been recorded now are".

But shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said the rise in violent crime was "extremely worrying".

Crime statistics by region and key offences

"Sadly the figures will come as no surprise to the millions of people up and down the country who suffer daily from crime, or the fear of crime, much of it drug related," he said.

"The problem is that the government's huge range of initiatives and vast bureaucracy just aren't making any significant impact."

Criminologist Dr Marian Fitzgerald said neither set of statistics was perfect, but anyway it was people's experience on the streets which was important.

"People feel that what the government is telling them doesn't match the reality that they experience.

"What is obvious is that serious violent crime has been increasing for several years."

Rape shock

Senior police officers said the figures were "encouraging" but "no cause for complacency".

Chris Fox, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "The rise in firearms offences and the scourge of drug-related crime represent areas where our continued efforts must be unrelenting."

Violent crime overall: +2%
Violence against the person: +5%
Murder: +18%, partly due to Harold Shipman
Drug offences: +16%

The new method of recording crime 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".

One dramatic increase in the unadjusted figures was a 27% rise in female rape. Overall since 1997, rape was up 82%.

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

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 also published on Thursday, showed a similar fall to the adjusted recorded crime statistics - down 2%.

Officials prefer the BCS because it shows people's experiences of crime, including offences not reported to the police.

Robberies: -14%
Burglary: -1%
Vehicle crime: -9%
However, 73% of those surveyed said they believed crime had increased in the last two years.

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 Home Office said the media may be perpetuating a fear of crime.

John Denham MP, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There is a problem, and it is not just in the tabloids, of picking out the most sensational figure and making that the headline."

But Bob Satchwell, director of the Society of Editors, said the issue of newspaper readership was a "red herring".

"Of course papers need to try to get it right and put everything into proper perspective, but clearly a lot of tabloids will be hearing from their readers that their fear of crime is very high indeed.

"People's own experience is much more important than what they read or see on TV."

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Police and ministers are convinced things are better but are yet to persuade the public"

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17 Jul 03  |  Wales
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17 Jul 03  |  England
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17 Jul 03  |  England
Is rape really rocketing?
17 Jul 03  |  UK


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