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Tuesday, 23 January, 2001, 11:35 GMT
Violent crime: How can it be stopped?
New crime figures have shown a big rise in street crime and violent offences in England and Wales.
The Home Office published figures on Tuesday showing that incidents of street robbery rose by as much as 21% between October 1999 and September 2000. However the figures also showed a slight drop in overall crime.
Home Secretary Jack Straw insisted the figures were encouraging and showed "the continuing success of effective action against crime".
What are your experiences of crime in the UK today? Do you feel more concerned about your own safety? What can be done to curb violent crime on the streets of Britain?
The increase in violent crimes, like all crimes probably arise from the large disparity in incomes, as seen in both the US and UK. In good economic times people forget or neglect the poor, causing resentment and desperation that frequently results in violence. Although there is no excuse for violent behaviour, one should try to address it by attempting to reduce poverty.
Tim Saunders, UK
There are several ways to cut down on crime - harsher punishments, banning the consumption of alcohol in the street, curfews for unsupervised juveniles to mention a few. But whatever measures are put into place cannot be carried out effectively without sufficient policing. At present the police force are understaffed and I would be a lot happier for being able to shout "police" and to be heard first time.
I think it stems from the loss of discipline in our society. It starts at a young age. Children are allowed "free expression", teachers are prevented from imposing discipline at school and the products of our so called progressive society then grow up into young disrespectful adults, with low self-esteem and a penchant for gratuitous violence.
We don't have to go back to the Stone Age to get some discipline back into out lives. We must start handing out punishments that will deter, encourage family values, discourage anti-social behaviour and stop glorifying the role models who promote bad manners.
Mark W, UK
I agree with Alan Y. How can we stop violent crime if our justice system and politicians constantly give in to these bleeding heart Socialists who are quite happy to defend the rights of the criminal while punishing the innocent? Tony Martin got life for killing an intruder in self-defence while the two boys who killed James Bulger get just eight years. This exactly proves my point that we seriously need to rethink our justice system. America is not a perfect society but at least they get it right when it comes to self-defence.
Allowing citizens to be armed is not a solution. Ask any Johannesburg resident about the consequences of this and they will tell you that more than 60% of those firearms were stolen from them and used to commit gruesome crimes. You never know with whom those guns will end up.
Crimes are perpetrated by different types of people for various reasons, but I am sure that if the British reverence for drunkenness were replaced by disdain, the overall crime rate in the country would go down. This is the observation of an American just returned from two years in London.
david mercer, wales
Easy peasy. By giving out harsher sentences, and having zero tolerance - the "three strikes and you're out" rule is ridiculous. The government should review the current low sentences, and the push-over judges who deal them out.
I'm not sure anything CAN be done. I think the violent, intolerant, impatient rage-driven element of our society is now too deeply ingrained. Greed as advocated by the politics of the 80s and our increasingly coarsened media with their almost constant emphasis on material gain have played their part in turning us into a nation of must-haves - and woe betide anyone who stands in the way of our getting what we want immediately.
Jason Price, UK
Dave, expat in Belgium
While agreeing that violent crime is a blight upon our society that needs to be addressed, probably by a more visible police presence, I would take issue with those people who are suggesting that police should spend less time tackling traffic offences. Whereas homicide is currently running at a terrifying figure of around 600 cases per year in the UK, traffic deaths are running at a scandalous 3,500 cases per year.
Alastair Barker and Robert Pugsley: your views are exactly those that compound the problems - "reduce relative poverty" - if only that was the answer. Come on guys, look at the real world rather than the liberal imaginary one you're in!
Custodial fines: Fine the criminals and put them away. They don't come out until they've earned enough working in prison to cover the fine and their prison living and training expenses. Going to
a job interview with a criminal record will mean they've learned to work for a living!
Zero tolerance approaches are absolute nonsense and people advocating such polices really don't understand the implications. Zero tolerance takes away a judges ability to decide on specific cases and has resulted in the US having the second highest prison population per capita, after Russia, in the world. We have judges for a reason and this is to provide everyone with a fair trial and sentence.
Crime is often committed by people who belong to peer groups who believe it is acceptable.
This starts with a liberal government which thinks that the muggers are just misunderstood victims, while the comfortable majority are really responsible by omission. Of course Jack Straw will never say this openly. If we really want to be tough on the causes of crime we need to change our government and make people responsible for their own actions!
It is a bit early to do anything much about rising crime. Better to wait until the public are
screaming for something to be done. Then, a raft of civil-liberties can be withdrawn, with little protest. The end justifies the means.
After living in America for two years I can agree that zero tolerance does work! However I totally disagree with those who say the drinking age should be lifted to 21. There are too many rebellious teenagers in America with easier access to drugs than alcohol! Besides if you are old enough to join the army and die for your country then your old enough to have a drink!
I am generally left-wing in my politics, but my experience of living in the US is that the US is that Britain needs the following: ID Cards, heavier police presence in town centres, and an attitude shift to make petty crimes socially unacceptable.
I think the UK needs tougher sentencing to reduce the occurrence of violent crime, which will inevitably result in the building of more prisons. Granted, this is an expensive option, but it does work. If a felon is in prison, he cannot very well be in another place committing another crime.
Here is Texas, according to the US Census Bureau, we went from tenth in the nation in terms of our violent crime rate to seventeenth between the years of 1990 and 1997. During those years, we had gone on what can be called a prison building spree. Granted, there are other factors involved, but Texas improved more than the rest of the nation as we built more prisons and upheld stiffer sentences, in spite of many growing pains. Perhaps the UK could do the same - but at the very least these plans should be considered if crime is truly becoming such a problem.
Alan Y, UK
There is no more crime than a decade ago, it's just that the media is so much more "out there" now and is able to report on the crimes that do happen. I agree however with the American fellow who suggested we are allowed to own firearms for defence - but only one per household, and full training must be undertaken as well as a psychological evaluation beforehand.
Perhaps the police can introduce a new form of speed camera, that takes photographs of people who are running away a little too fast from the scene of a crime.
What hope is there when violent thugs like the Krays are treated as national heroes?
Paul Snook, UK
I've lived in our biggest cities and have witnessed crime and have known murder victims. I was also a federal narcotics officer for four years. Criminals, worldwide, will stop only when the cost is too high. Burglaries are rare because criminals fear the armed homeowner. I'm not a big man, but drug dealers and street criminals I've encountered know that I will not hestitate to use whatever force necessary to protect my family. I've been threatened many times, but never touched. There is an old saying; "God created man equally, but Colt keeps them equal".
The Government should be investing in the police service and getting more policemen on the street. There should also be a tougher sentencing policy, three strikes and your out, which has worked well in New York.
This is a hard country to be happy in. The pound doesn't buy you anything as the price of things are so high, and we are taxed to death with very little return for our tax pound. People are backed into corners and some take the easy way out. "No-one is looking after me, so I will look after myself". When will any government understand that they cannot control a boiling pot by forcing the lid down. Fight the source - relative poverty - and the crime problems will reduce by themselves.
Richard Dasiel, UK
Despite New Labour's promises over the last three years to get tough on crime, there has been a 21 per cent increase in street robberies. This in itself is yet another indication of New Labour's inability to deliver. It is also a pretty fair indication that Government Ministers have, not only lost touch with society but, lost touch with reality. To have Jack Straw claiming that this same 21 per cent increase is encouraging is almost beyond belief.
Often I see police holding speed cameras and pulling over motorists for driving 5mph over the speed limit. Yet every time there is a fight in a pub or someone is attacked or mugged in the street there are no officers available to deal with the crime. Perhaps if they got their priorities right and concentrated on catching criminals rather than car drivers we would not have this problem.
Its not the lack of police funding that is the problem, its how they are spending resources.
I liked the comment that "There is absolutely no evidence that locking people up will do anything to stop violent crimes". People do not commit crimes when they are in prison. This is hardly a grey area.
Mike Allan, UK
If you want to deal with this kind of crime then you must close this ridiculous abyss between the rich and poor. Stop condemning those without, to dilapidated housing estates where their only views are of the penthouses of those with. Let everyone have the same opportunities and stop dangling the carrots of materialism in front of those who cannot even afford to feed their families. If you let this wealth gap flourish then you must accept the crime. It is a symptom. As Deleuze and Guattari said, socialism was mankind's last chance.
I really wish that people would not complicate and try to psychoanalyse everything.
The moment you mention mandatory ID cards, and introduce CCTV camera's, the namby-pamby liberals and left-wing ideologists rant and rave about civil rights. Politicians, afraid of losing a vote or two, cave in. The obvious result is all this mess. If UK are serious about stopping crime, or at least limiting it, then they need to get tough. Zero tolerance works. It is a fact.
In our desperate attempt to be "fair" and "balanced" in our response to crime, we seem to have forgotten the poor victim! As tempting as it is to put perpetrators in the stocks, or publicly flog them, this is clearly not the answer. But I'd certainly make prison tough (very tough); I'd put youths in boot-camp; and/or I'd make sure that full restitution was made to victims of financial loss. Time to stop pussy-footing around with these people!
Robert Pugsley, UK
If we stopped half the police staff skiving off on early retirement through supposed back injury and stress then maybe we could get a few bobbies back on the beat - the amount of police that get away with early retirement with a nice fat pension on bogus medical grounds is a scandal. If everyone else could get away with what they do then the country would be bankrupt in a matter of months.
Paul Wiggs, England
I'm mystified by the comment made by Bruce M from the US. Does he really think that allowing citizens to own firearms reduces violent crime? He should look at the US murder statistics.
Some criminals live better than we do! Criminals can have Sky television and luxuries that the British public - the British public who have not broken the law - must pay for. If the law-abiding citizens are paying for criminals to enjoy themselves in jail - surely it is an incentive to live in jail. Punishments need to punish and teach.
Violent crime has its roots in infancy and the way youngsters are brought up. Signs of delinquency and violence can be detected in children as young as three. That is the time when parents and children need help. Money invested by the Government at this stage could save vast sums of money later on.
Look at New York. I've recently visited there and the crime rate has been reduced dramatically because they have been getting tough with any perpetrators.
We are too soft in the UK; a slapped wrist isn't a deterrent.
Why yes Bruce M, I do note violent crime in the areas of the world that
allow citizens to own firearms, namely the king of them all, the USA. It
is a pretty violent country isn't it?
I lived in the Middle East for twenty years and no-one worried about walking down an unlit street at 1am. The only people who ever stopped me were the police checking ID's.
Tom, what planet are you from? I suppose I imagined having 3 cars stolen, my brother in law being put in hospital by a mugger, house break-ins and the other various crimes that have happened to relatives.
Jon Slade, UK
Well put it this way, I don't think placing criminals in a facility which offers them colour TV, videos, pool tables and a gym presents them with any deterrence.
I know it's old fashioned but what happened to the work ethic? Many old sayings stay true; "The Devil finds work for idle hands to do!"
More work, less play. If people are unemployed then let them undertake community service work. "But no, that's too simple", say the liberals. It's time to put an end to the Nanny State.
A set of stocks!!
Mick Deal, UK
I had my garage recently broken into with the loss of over £2000 worth of equipment. The police would not attend even though the garage is an integral part of my house. My wife and two children were in bed at the time. It seems easier to sit on street corners and flag down motorists. What is the police force coming to?
Linda from the USA is spot on. Vast improvements in New York were a direct result of zero tolerance of all crime. Adopt a similar process here, but extend it further. Repeat offenders get a minimum term in prison of (say) 20 years. No parole or early release. Finance this additional prison expenditure by a life increase in tax rate/ decrease in benefits for all convicted offenders.
Little action is taken in this country to combat petty theft. Where I'm from there is a strong sense of community, a town is one big family and anyone stealing from someone else results in public shaming. Posters of the criminal are in local shops, libraries, garages etc.
As a result petty crime is no longer a problem.
Jonathan Frankel, UK
How about a change in police priorities? I live in a rural area and the only police I have ever seen around are on a speed trap they set up occasionally on a road that has no houses or schools, only open fields and a farm. Yet when a neighbour in our village got mugged (and needed eleven stitches in her head) it took them five hours to send someone out. At night our nearest police officer is now 27 miles away. No use at all.
The Americanisation of British society is starting to have its effects apparently. Maybe the Government in the UK should declare a war on crime, because the Americans have shown that that works perfectly.