Why has violent crime continued to rise?
Police in England and Wales have recorded a record number of more than one million incidents of violent crime during 2004-5.
The number of recorded crimes fell by 6% to 5.6m incidents but gun crime was up 6%.
Home Office minister Hazel Blears claims that the statistics show better reporting and recording of offences but shadow home secretary David Davis says that the government is continuing to fail on violent crime.
Have you been a victim of violent crime? How worried are you about the rise in statistics? Is the risk of crime real or perceived? Can respect be restored to communities?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
The Human Rights Act has shafted any chance we have to bring violent, or any other type of crime, under control. Until we can worry less about the human rights of criminals and concentrate more on the rights of the law abiding public we will never effectively tackle crime.
Tim, Northern Ireland
Send them all into boot camps, put their aggression into something useful!!!
P. Simmonds, Dorset UK
People talk about tackling "the root cause" of crime and imply that society is somehow at fault. To me the root causes of crime are greed, jealousy and laziness - someone wants something they can't afford and can't be bothered working for it, so they steal it or vandalise it. If they are behind bars they are unable to carry out their crimes so it is nonsense to suggest that prison doesn't protect society.
Everyone comes across some form of violence in their lifetime. The statistics are not comforting that's for sure. Violent people should be checked into "anger managing" programmes and should go through vigorous therapy, in order to avoid being a threat in public.
Hassan Amidhozour, Tehran, Iran
Like many previous commentators, I believe the problem is in the lack of respect and fear of authority. Young people have little to fear. I also believe that capital punishment should be reintroduced, for extreme crimes like pre-planned murder, serial child molesting and so on. Maybe young offenders should be made to do army training to give them discipline that the parents and judicial system can't.
Greg, Sheffield, England
In two stages. First, more police in the areas that matter - on the streets rather than in offices issuing crime numbers. Prevention is better than cure. Second - make the punishments for those convicted a lot harsher. The purpose of punishment is not rehabilitation - that comes afterwards. Punishment is supposed to be something you are frightened of, even if you are a hardened violent criminal.
Lloyd Evans, Brighton, UK
The flog 'em and hang 'em gang on this page miss the point. USA imprisons more of its own citizens than any European country - and their crime rate continues to rocket. The real tough way to combat violent crime is to look at the type of society that we are building and the root causes of crime. Tackle the causes, not the effects. People are not born violent criminals - it is learnt behaviour. This is where we should be looking.
Matt Collins, London
Let's say the government changes its mind on ID cards and instead uses those billions of pounds on highly trained separate police forces, not for serious organised crime, but for stopping violent crime and behaviour in areas and communities where the residents are scared of going out, not only bringing crime down but making these people feel safe and therefore giving them the confidence to stand up to these thugs. It only takes a few to stand up to a bully in a schoolyard to stop them.
In my opinion it is the delusion concept of absolute liberty that "encourages" the easy procurement of firearms, which are subsequently used in violent crimes. Drastic legislation should be enforced that puts a tight screw around the procurement of firearms. I'm not saying people shouldn't be free to defend themselves, but the criteria relating to character conduct and history of violence (if any) should be considered. Thank you.
Benjamin Tarachi, Jo, Nigeria
Definitely society should punish hard criminals much harder and not be afraid of taking human rights away from them. Victims too have human rights, instead theirs are suppressed violently by criminals at large.
Stefano, Helsinki, Finland
I believe society is too influenced by the draconian tabloids. The English prison system is one of the highest populated in the EU. It costs the English population between £10,000-12,000 per inmate per year. Other sentences would be far more effective, hard labour, digging roads, building schools. Why shouldn't society capitalise on their crimes instead of just the media? I was attacked savagely two weeks ago. If it came to prosecution I'd sooner they pay society back for their anti-social act. Sending them to criminal school aka prison would not help them stop re-offending. It becomes a way of life for many.
M Spiers, Tiverton, UK
Violent crime must be tackled at its roots. Culture, society, and the economy must be geared towards the love of an individual and the preservation of their individual rights. Human beings must have their dignity, clean water, air, meaningful work and the ability to explore their world and their beliefs. People must be exposed to different ideologies and refrain from radicalism or blind patriotism. Crime must be punished logically and with justice. Rehabilitation must be real for low level offenders and the law enforcement community must be seen as a caring and thoughtful extension of the people's power and not a automaton tool of a political party.
Patrick Labay, Austin, TX, USA
Perhaps if jail sentences were longer and much less pleasant they would be more of a deterrent.
James McDougall, Dundee, Scotland
If the offenders are underage (i.e. under 16 and therefore 'unprosecutable') the parents should be at least heavily fined or maybe the reintroduction of borstal would keep kids on the straight and narrow. I know that it stopped many people in the generation before me going too far off the path.
Marc, Milton Keynes
America's experience during the 1960s and 1970s showed that the enlightened approach putting emphasis on rehabilitation doesn't work. Criminals must be taken off the street and the punishment must be certain and abhorrent enough to serve as an efficient deterrent. When I was in high school, we were taken on a class trip through the local courthouse where we met prosecutorial officials, saw courtrooms, and saw detainees. Seeing suspects being held in cages like animals has a sobering effect on children. Respect for the law by would-be criminals only comes from fear, not understanding.
How many times do we hear of the police catching offenders, often the same person on a number of occasions, only to see them let off with another 'slap on the wrist'? It's time the magistrates and judges stopped microscopically analysing the 'word of the law' and got down to actually implementing it. I believe far too many offenders get off because they are lucky enough to have an articulate solicitor or social worker.
Patricia, Southport, Merseyside
The only way to tackle violent crimes is to make the penalties so harsh that a criminal would be too scared to even attempt his crime. Enough of this liberal "let's try and understand why they're doing this"! Give them a shock and send them away!!!
The problem all stems from having no deterrent anymore. People who commit these crimes know full well that if they are taken to court the chances of them getting sent to prison are very slim mainly because judges and magistrates are so out of touch and do not live in the real world and If they do get sent to prison it's like a holiday camp. What we need is a complete overhaul of the system starting with having judges and magistrates elected by the people of this country for a period of 5 years and then having stand for re-election instead of the closed secretive club they run now.
A. Baker, Chelmsford, Essex
All historical social controls have been eroded. From the family unit, to schools to the community as a whole. Once upon a time shame was an excellent behavioural controller. Shame has been replaced with an excuse culture, blaming/excusing/explaining people's anti-social behaviour rather than condemning and punishing it.
Chris M, UK
A friend of mine was the victim of an unprovoked assault with a broken bottle, the offender was given a suspended sentence and probation! The handing out of realistic and long prison sentences may be a start, instead of probation, community service and suspended sentences. Violent behaviour should attract a long prison sentence.
Clive Ansell, Wythall, UK
I see a correlation between violent crime and the types of authority figures we have. The police have their hands tied behind their backs, so do teachers, and so do parents. Abuse is not acceptable but we can teach right from wrong and punish wrongdoing, we just have to be consistent. I think some kind of national service would be worthwhile - not the armed forces necessarily but perhaps clearing litter, working with the elderly or helping with schools.
Chery, Swindon, Wilts
A much bigger presence of police on the streets would certainly help, but the best bet would be zero tolerance. If everyone knew if they committed a crime the would certainly get punished, it would discourage a lot more people than the softly, softly last chance final warning approach.
Laurence , Luton, UK
The violent crime statistics are a joke, the population isn't a passive crash test dummy that just has crime inflicted on them, people react by staying in, no going out after dark and staying away from the areas where it is growing. You could have thousands of violent criminals on the streets and have no change in assaults, simply because everyone would say in. We have become a society of locked doors, barbed wire and taxis after dark rather than public transport. Give the streets back to the nice people.
I agree with what's already been said. We need more police on the beat and parents need to be held accountable for the behaviour of their children. There should be tougher sentences imposed and there should be no such thing as "serving half the time" Gun and knife crime should carry the risk of extremely long sentences.
Sonia Richardson, Keighley, UK
The great liberal political correctness experiment has patently failed. It is time to reclaim the streets from the pampered and return them to the people. Start punishing offenders rather than hugging them. Lock up violent people for so long they regret their actions. Make prison's so horrific released prisoners vow to never want to go back. Once offenders realise they will be caught and punished they may think twice, until then they will rule the streets.
Violent crime like any other crime will continue to rise whilst we have no deterrent in terms of punishment. Perhaps we should introduce the three strike rule. We should increase the punishments otherwise the debate is futile.
If 48% of violent crime is drink related, it clearly makes no sense for the government pursue 24 hour opening.
I disagree with the earlier comments that harsher prison sentences are the answer. The prison environment does little to bring about change and often itself has a culture of violence which only serves to perpetuate this behaviour. Community sentences are no longer soft options, there are many measures which are demanding of offenders, impose high restrictions on their liberty and can bring about positive change in their behaviour. For many the easier option is jail.
Jean Henderson, Sheffield, UK
Bring back National Service for both men and women. Young people from the age of eighteen to twenty-two would benefit greatly from the discipline, they would learn responsibility and, most importantly, they would be too busy to get into this kind of trouble. The cost of running such a scheme would surely be less than the costs that go with policing, charging, prosecuting and then imprisoning these offenders.
Donna Chisholm, Staffs, UK
The police drive up and down the street I live in on a regular basis. Has that stopped crime? No! There is no fear of the police or the law anymore. Criminals know that they have rights.
J. Hodgson, Wiltshire, UK
I live in Bloomsbury and can recognise most of the local drug addicts as they move around the streets and congregate around phone boxes. I can spot the dealers too. I have been in the area for about 10 years and nothing has changed. I call the police regularly, but the response is lack lustre and ineffective. You have to catch someone in the act of actually dealing drugs for an offence to have been committed, so the police always turn up after the event. Dealers of course know this, so are quite blatant in their trade. This is why having police on the beat is so necessary - at very least as a deterrent to such obvious flouting of the law.
Jonny C, London
Regarding violent crime, one way to reduce it has already been put in place: Dispersal Zones in South London mean that fewer young people are tempted to use violence to get what they want. I lived in West Norwood for 18 years until my wife and I decided that the quality of life there and in many parts of London had fallen to such a low level that we no longer wished to be there and moved to a small town in Kent. We never made a better move. In the last five years spent at West Norwood there were three shootings and a throat-cutting less than a mile away. If these zones diminish the temptation for young people to emulate that kind of thing they are a good idea.
David Peate, Edenbridge, Kent
I think increasing the number of police on the beat is only going to move crime from one area to another. Sure, it may make you feel safer but does it actually make you less likely to be a victim? This problem needs to be confronted at the source: why do people commit crime?
It's become a well-known belief on the streets that on-street crimes are easy to get away with. I myself have witnessed 4 violent crimes up close over the years and when I went into the police station to give my statement the reaction was always one of two things - 'the victim isn't prosecuting because they are scared' or 'there just isn't enough proof'. Oh, and on the one occasion I was attacked I called the police for help and when I said it was just one man who had attacked me (damaged eye socket) they said they 'didn't have time to run out to every little scuffle'. What we need is stricter punishments for criminals and police who fail in their jobs.
Paul Charters, Sutton, UK
A friend of mine was the victim of an unprovoked assault with a broken bottle, the offender was given a suspended sentence and probation!
The handing out of realistic and long prison sentences may be a start, instead of probation, community service and suspended sentences.
Violent behaviour should attract a long prison sentence - keep the rubbish behind bars.
Clive Ansell, Wythall, UK
I have not been a victim but I guess it is a question of where one lives. That said, the perception of crime certainly decreases when the police are actually on the streets. It might be sceptical, but there were many police about just before the general election - I even saw a policeman on foot in my street; a rare sight indeed!
Tom, Ipswich, UK
Stop excusing, start punishing. Get parents to raise kids in a responsible manner. Crack down on violent behaviour, Punish violent criminals (really punish) and lock up all the liberal do-gooders who are dragging this country to the pits. Violent crime is not a symptom of any of the social rubbish they sprout, it is a choice by the offender.
Mike, Derby, UK
I believe we should go back to the hardline approach and concentrate on the victims than the criminals. You commit a crime, you lose your human rights regarding that crime. We should look at countries with low violent crime rates and I guarantee that these countries will have a strict way of dealing with these criminals.