Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

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?

HAVE YOUR SAY 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.
M. M. Zaman, UK in US

I suggest we take inspiration and advice from countries with low violent crime rates

Tim Saunders, UK
I suggest we take inspiration and advice from countries with low violent crime rates. We have many examples within the European Union. Alternatively we can seek advice from a country that is even more violent than our own - the United States. I suggest that seeking advice from the latter will merely make the problem worse. So why, why, why do the Government seek advice from them?
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.
Hazel, UK

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.
Mary Swain, United Kingdom

It is easy to focus on street crime and forget the domestic violence that permeates all levels of society

Mark W, UK
A very large proportion of violent crime in the UK is domestic-related and occurs behind closed doors. It is easy to focus on street crime and forget the domestic violence that permeates all levels of society. A greater degree of emphasis needs to be placed on such crimes in order to ensure that they are punished effectively, whether they occur on the streets or in the home.
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.
Chris, Scotland

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.
Vuyani, Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa

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.
Terry, USA

The blatant and sickening consumerism swamping society is to blame

david mercer, wales
The blatant and sickening consumerism swamping society is to blame for the rise in violent crime in this country. The figures show that young people are attacking and robbing each other for mobile phones, designer clothes and anything else that looks new and shiny. Perhaps it is time to curb the excess through consumer boycotting all these stupid things, or at the very least cutting back on them.
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.
Kate S, UK

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.
John Park, England

It is our alcohol laws that need re-thinking

Jason Price, UK
From what I've observed over the years, most muggings, acts of violence and disorder, and physical attacks occur later at night and are carried by people who have consumed more alcohol than their powers of reasoning can cope with. Much of these criminal activities, abhorrent as they are, are acted out by those who would not normally do such things in the light of sobriety. It is our alcohol laws that need re-thinking.
Jason Price, UK

Perhaps we should look at what they are doing better than us

Dave, expat in Belgium
Britain seems to be one of the most violent societies in Western Europe! I know it's an unpopular thought, but perhaps we should look at what they are doing better than us - rather than always looking to the USA for ideas! Having lived on the continent for several years, I think it's something to do with the State's efforts to make everyone feel that they have a real stake in society. Also people seem able to manage to enjoy themselves without feeling they have to overdo their drinking!
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.
Andrew, UK

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!
Freddie, UK

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!
Clive Mitchell, UK

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.
David Bell, UK

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!
John W, Holland

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.
Tom, Australia

Voters, the answer is in your own hands

Joan, UK
Punishment isn't the issue, surely - deterrence is. So more Bobbies please. Let's all vote for the party that promises to increase police numbers and is prepared to raise tax to pay for them! Voters, the answer is in your own hands.
Joan, UK

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!
Richard, Wales

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.
Sean Taylor, US/UK

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.
Owen Courreges, USA

The law on self-defence needs changing

Alan Y, UK
The law on self-defence needs changing. If I saw someone being mugged I'd be reluctant to help in case I was convicted for assault and the criminal sued me for damages!
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.
Giles Heaton, England

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.
Steve, UK

What hope is there when violent thugs like the Krays are treated as national heroes?
Dave, UK

The mugging statistics would be reduced, but the murder rate would rocket

Paul Snook, UK
So Bruce M. from the US thinks we should be allowed to carry guns. Great idea, the mugging statistics would be reduced, but the murder rate would rocket. The States have had more incidents of someone going crazy with a gun in the first 16 days of this year than the UK has had in 20 years. I think I'll take my chances being mugged thank you.
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".
Richard R. Bruce, USA

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.
Dan, UK

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.
Alastair Barker, UK

There are far too many liberals who think jail is not the answer

Richard Dasiel, UK
I think Robert Pugsley is a prime example of why we have a problem with crime in this country. There are far too many liberals who think jail is not the answer but that we need to provide counselling and support for criminals because its not their fault but the way they were brought up. Rubbish - the point of jail is to keep these people apart from law-abiding citizens. What about our civil right to live without fear of crime?
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.
David Pringle, UK

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.
Pat, UK

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.
John, UK

A great deal of violent crime is linked to excessive alcohol consumption by teenagers of both sexes

Mike Allan, UK
A great deal of violent crime is linked to excessive alcohol consumption by teenagers of both sexes. Increasing the legal drinking age to 21 would surely help!
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.
Anna M, UK

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.
Chris (ex-UK), Germany

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!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

There is absolutely no evidence that locking people up will do anything to stop violent crimes

Robert Pugsley, UK
There is absolutely no evidence that locking people up will do anything to stop violent crimes. None. Most violent crime is heat of the moment stuff - people who do this rarely think about the consequences. Look at the murder rates in the US where they have the "ultimate deterrent". And harsh penalties aren't the answer too, either you're going to keep everyone locked up for ever (and who's going to pay for that?) or you're going to have to live with the consequences of brutalised, unemployable thugs wandering about the streets. The reasons for crimes are complex and need to be thought about properly, not dealt with in knee-jerk way by politicians with an electoral axe to grind.
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.
Dave, UK

I felt safer there than I do now I'm back in England

Paul Wiggs, England
When I moved to New York for work a couple of years ago I was initially worried about the level of crime and violence that I thought I would encounter. To be honest I felt safer there than I do now I'm back in England. The only bit of crime I saw was one lad jumping over the turnstiles on the subway, he was pounced on in seconds by the authorities. The police presence there made me feel safe as they were there to do their job and not persecute motorists for eating biscuits whilst driving or driving slightly too fast. Police should be there to fight crime and make the streets safe for decent people once again.
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.
Chris Booth, UK

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.
Calum D, UK

There is no longer any support for the victims

Lee, UK
From what I have seen over the last few years there is no doubt whatsoever that crime pays. There is no longer any support for the victims. They are just left to get on with it. I know because I was mugged by 3 youths in London a couple of years ago. I was traumatised. The police told me not to worry because there were video cameras set up where the offence was committed. What they forgot to say was that the cameras were switched off because they could not afford to run them. The message from the Government is loud and clear, "Keep committing the crimes because we're not going to do anything about it".
Lee, UK

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.
Sue Stephens, England

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.
Jo, UK

The real problem is that there is no deterrent

Tony, UK
Living near a city I am constantly aware of violent crime and even now think twice before I step out for a walk with my wife. The real problem is that there is no deterrent. A simple slapped wrist or community service is NOT good enough. Leave them in jail with bread, water and a loo - NOTHING MORE.
Tony, UK

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?
Chris Cormier, Canada

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.
Peter, England/ USA

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.
Philip Johnson, England

I never thought I'd say it, but I'm with Ken Livingstone on this

Jon Slade, UK
I never thought I'd say it, but I'm with Ken Livingstone on this. I truly believe that the public would benefit from a greater police presence on the streets of London. I'm happy to pay a penny or two more for the reassurance.
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.
Gary, UK

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.
Chris, UK

A set of stocks!!
Tim, England

The only thing the police are used for these days is to either arrest demonstrators or harass car drivers

Mick Deal, UK
Every week in my local paper I read article after article about beatings, muggings, thefts in the Milton Keynes area. Only on rare occasions do I ever see a police car driving through the city or in and around local nearby towns. I have lived in MK for over three years and not once have I ever seen a police person on the beat. Is this a thing of the past? Very few violent crimes are ever solved, the thugs, bullies and thieves rarely punished (if caught). The police are hopelessly unreliable. And as soon as a victim of crime hits back against the criminals, he/ she is the one in the dock. As far as I can see, the only thing the police are used for these days is to either arrest demonstrators or harass car drivers.
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?
Robert, UK

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.
Vernon Bigg, UK

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.
Rockzod Bingo, UK (From Chile)

I think we all read too much into statistics

Jonathan Frankel, UK
I think we all read too much into statistics. How is it possible that violent crime has shown such a steep rise? Is it possible that people are much more willing to report fights and domestic incidents as violent crime? All statistics do is make people scared to go out. The truth is you're not gonna get mugged as soon as you step outside your door, but that's the way it is portrayed in the media. I think the UK is as safe as any other developed country. I should know, I live in the most deprived area of London, and still walk the streets at night without incident.
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.
Jose Fernandez, Netherlands

What we need is high profile policing late at night in our city centres

Iain Harrison, UK