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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Violent crime on the rise

The figures relate to crimes reported to police
Violent crime in England and Wales is continuing to rise, while detection rates by police officers are falling.

Home Office figures unveiled on Thursday showed violent crimes increased by 4.3% in the 12 months ending in March, but 31 of the 43 police forces solved fewer cases.


There are no quick wins on crime - it is a long term investment

David Blunkett
However overall recorded crime has fallen by 2.5% to 5.2 million, with non-violent crimes like burglaries and car thefts decreasing.

The Home Office says that despite rising crime figures, the rate of the rise is slowing.

But a number of police chiefs have blamed a change in government crime policies for the "soaring" statistics, saying the public would be "unnerved" by the latest findings.

In the report violent crimes showed a large jump for a second year:

  • Violence against the person up 3.4% to 601,000 offences
  • Wounding up 18% to 3,200
  • Racially-aggravated harassment up 15.8% to 12,500
  • Robbery up 13% to 95,154.

    The rise in robbery figures is partly blamed on teenage boys stealing mobile phones from other youngsters.

    Beat policing

    Chairman of the Police Federation, Fred Broughton, said "soaring" violent crime was partly due to the government's emphasis away from beat policing.

    Overall detection rates
    This year 24%
    Last year 25%
    1989 34%
    "Whilst the service has made significant strides in reducing burglaries and vehicle crime by concentrating its efforts on these government-led performance indicators, it could be argued that such targets have detracted attention away from traditional patrolling," he said.

    Colin Phillips, head of crime policy for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said it was possibly that the crackdown on property crime has led to more robberies.

    "A lot of people are looking for easier targets," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "Rather than take the risk of breaking into someone's house, they are stealing from friends and colleagues."

    But he said there were no simple solutions, and called for broader social improvements in areas such as education and prospects for inner-city youth.

    Investment

    The Home Office said despite the rise in reported incidents of violent crime to 733,000, the rate of the rise has slowed from 16% last year.

    It also pointed out that the British Crime Survey, which interviews people to find their experience of crime whether they have reported it or not, suggests a downward trend with a 22% fall in violent offences.

    Clean-up rates
    Burglaries 12%
    Thefts from person 6%
    Thefts from vehicles 8%
    Robberies 18%
    Violent crime 55%
    Murder 90%
    Home Secretary David Blunkett said the survey will now be published every year instead of every two, and at the same time as recorded crime figures to help give a clearer picture of crime.

    "There are no quick wins on crime - it is a long term investment," he said.

    "We have had real success with burglary and car crime but this was hard earned.

    "One continued area of concern is the continued rise in robbery. However, the rate is slowing significantly and is now half of the 26% increase for the previous 12 months.

    Detection rates

    "Part of this is due to a rise in mobile phone theft, which in some urban areas accounts for up to 40% of all robberies."

    The statistics show police solved just 24% of all reported crimes in the year to March, compared with 25% in the previous 12 months and 34% in 1989.

    Home Office statistician Paul Wiles said detection rates were probably at their lowest ever "in numerical terms".

    Highest crime rate
    Greater Manchester
    West Midlands
    London
    But he said the fall in detection rates could be because the circumstances in which police can claim a crime has been solved have been narrowed.

    Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said it was "appalling" that three out of four crimes go unsolved.

    "Nothing is more likely to foster insecurity and fear of crime than so few crimes resulting in someone being brought to account for their actions," he said.

    Cumbria success

    Kevin Morris, president of the Police Superintendents' Association, said the public would be "unnerved" by the figures.

    And he called for more effort to be put into crime reduction.

    "Having no crime in the first place is better than having to detect it later," he said.

    Mr Wiles said recorded crime fell in 34 police forces, with Cumbria showing the largest decrease at 12.9%, followed by South Wales at 12.5%.

    Nine forces recorded rises, topped by Lancashire with an 8.1% increase, followed by North Wales at 7% and Staffordshire at 5.9%.

    However, five of these nine forces have changed the way they record crime which results in a higher proportion of incidents being recorded, he said.

    Mr Wiles predicted that if those five had not changed their methods the total number of recorded crimes would have fallen 3.5%.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's June Kelly
    "Overall, crime is down"
    Home Office Minister John Denham
    "We certainly need more police officers"
    The BBC's Jane Hughes
    "The rate of increase is much lower than it was last year"
    Richard Garside is from Nacro,
    an organisation that works to reduce crime
    Mike Craik of Northumbria police
    "We cannot solve absolutely everything"

    Talking PointTALKING POINT
    Official figures suggest violent crime is up. Do you feel less safe?More crime?
    Do you feel less safe these days?

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    See also:

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    16 Jan 01 | UK
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    Public losing confidence in police
    05 Jan 01 | UK Politics
    Labour 'failing' on anti-crime pledge
    01 Jun 00 | UK Politics
    New laws target youth crime
    16 Jan 01 | UK Politics
    Police recruit numbers on the rise
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