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Sunday, 16 June, 2002, 18:56 GMT 19:56 UK
Crime rate rising again
A rise in mobile telephone thefts has contributed to rise
Crime figures are expected to rise for the first time in seven years, the Home Office has admitted.

Official figures to be published next month will show an estimated 6% national rise.

A survey by The Sunday Times found that the vast majority of police forces in England and Wales say crime rates have gone up in the year to March.

The Home Office says new methods of reporting crime means more offences are being recorded.

Home Office minister, Beverley Hughes, blames the rise on the link between Class A drugs and street crime, and insisted people are safer now than five years ago.

But opposition parties have branded the government's tactics on crime as ''gimmicks'' which have not paid off.


If there is a rise it is related specifically to crime in association with Class A drugs and street crime

Beverley Hughes, Home Office Minister

Some of the increases are expected to be as high as 20% in Avon and Somerset, 15% in North Yorkshire and 12.5% in County Durham.

Ms Hughes, speaking on LWT's Jonathan Dimbleby programme, said: "Official (crime) figures will come out very shortly. There may well be a rise.

"We have seen crime figures falling for six years now.

"We know that if there is a rise it is related specifically to crime in association with Class A drugs and street crime.

"We are dealing specifically with both of those issues."

'Superficial initiatives'

She was responding to questions which arose from a survey of police forces which found the number of reported crimes in England and Wales rose significantly in the past year.

The Sunday Times obtained final figures for the year from 33 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, plus forecast figures from another nine.

On average, about 850 more crimes were reported every day than during the previous year.

Beverley Hughes, Home Office Minister
'Britain is safer than five years ago'
The increases will be disappointing for the government, which pledged to be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime", coming after several years of falling crime rates.

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin told the paper: "After 55 eye-catching but superficial initiatives, there is not even any prospect of the home secretary making a serious impact on crime in Britain over the remainder of this Parliament."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said: "Many of the myriad gimmicks and initiatives of the last five years have obviously not been successful."

He said a policy to prevent young people becoming involved in crime, through sport, and mentoring should be introduced from primary school age.

He said drink and drug addicts need help not punishment, and former prisoners need more support.

As do witnesses, he said, but the onus must always be on crime prevention.

'Britain is safe'

"Long-term strategies, with victims at their heart, must be at the top of the agenda from now on, and gimmicks must be given the red card," he added.

John Denham, home office minister, said: "If we look at what has happened and has been achieved over the last five to six years, Britain is a safer country than it was.

"That remains the case even if there is a small increase across the country this year.

"We are not complacent."

The Independent on Sunday newspaper says just one in 15 crimes committed in Britain results in a conviction.

The paper bases its story on figures from the government's spending watchdog the Audit Commission which will be officially released on Monday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Crime overall is rising"
See also:

16 Jan 01 | UK
16 Jan 01 | UK Politics
05 Jan 01 | UK Politics
29 Dec 00 | UK Politics
01 Jun 00 | UK Politics
20 Mar 02 | UK Politics
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