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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Street robberies soar by 28%
Rise in street crime
There were 121,000 robberies in 2001/02
The number of robberies soared 28% last year according to the latest statistics which show a reversal in the long-term trend of falling crime in England and Wales.

The rise in street crime prompted Home Secretary David Blunkett to vow to make this "significant" problem a "high priority".

There were 5.52m crimes recorded by police in 2001/02, 356,239 more than the previous year - an increase of 7%.

The Home Office says the rise has been

inflated by a new method of recording crimes, which accounts for about 5% of the increase.

Launch new window : Facts and figures
Crime figures by key offence and region

The government argues that crime levels are stable. It cites as evidence the British Crime Survey - also published on Friday - which shows the number of offences to be slightly down.

But the Conservatives have accused the government of "statistical manipulation".

Home Office statistics chief Professor Paul Wiles said of the recorded crime figures: "It does not mean there is an increase in crime out there, it simply means the police are recording more of the crime out there."

But Peter Dunn, of Victim Support, said the rise in recorded robberies mirrored the experience of victims of crime coming to the charity.

"We are definitely seeing more referrals from violent offences in the street," he said.

"There are more people being mugged, particularly young people mugging other young people for their mobile phones."

The key areas where reported crime is on the rise are:

  • Violent crime up 11% to 812,000 incidents

  • Murders up 4% to 886 and attempted murders up 21% to 858

  • Robbery up 28% to more than 121,000 incidents, including a 31% rise in robbery of personal property.

  • Rapes up 14%

  • Soliciting up 60%

    The figures showed police solved slightly fewer crimes than last year - 1.3 million crimes out of 5.5m were detected, or 23% compared with 24% in the previous 12 months.

    No amount of statistical manipulation can conceal what everyone on the estates in our inner cities already knows

    Oliver Letwin, shadow home secretary

    However officials said the new way of collating figures also had an effect on this and the overall detection rate was virtually unchanged from last year.

    Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin blamed a "muddled" government policy for the rise in street crime.

    "No amount of statistical manipulation can conceal what everyone on the estates in our inner cities already knows - that it is the gangs and the drug dealers rather than the forces of law and order that are in charge.

    "We need the police back on our streets, a serious programme to reform the characters of youth offenders and a serious attack on the gang culture."

    Second survey

    The government has published recorded crime figures at the same time as the results of the 2.5m British Crime Survey (BCS), which asked 33,000 people about their experience of crime.

    Prof Wiles said the separate survey showed crime last year was "stable after a period of decline".

    It showed crime was down 22% since 1997 and by 14% over the last two years.

    The survey paints a brighter picture regarding some forms of crime including burglary.
    Home Secretary David Blunkett
    Blunkett: Burglary and motor crime remain low

    It found the chances of being a victim of crime were at about their lowest since the survey began in 1981.

    Burglary was down 7% and thefts from and of vehicles were down 7%. The average person had a one in 50 chance of having their home burgled last year.

    Cannabis experiment

    Mr Blunkett said: "I am not pretending for a moment there is not a problem."

    But he said policies recently introduced by the government would reverse the increase in crime and were "beginning to work".

    "Part of it is more police and more community support officers," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

    The government also needed to "get our act together across the whole criminal justice system" and that would be addressed by major reforms being announced next week, he added.

    He also denied there was a link between the high figures for the south London borough of Lambeth and the pilot scheme there to turn a blind eye to cannabis possession.

    'Appalling' figures

    Fourteen of the top 20 robbery "blackspots" are in London, but the Metropolitan Police said results had improved since February, when Operation Safer Streets was launched to target street crime.

    Officers from traffic units were redeployed to tackle robberies in the 15 worst-hit boroughs, and police visited schools to educate youngsters about crime prevention.

    Launch new window : Robbery Blackspots
    Top 20 robbery blackspots

    Director of the Victims of Crime Trust, Norman Brennan, said ministers should "hang their heads in shame" at the "appalling" figures.

    "It is clear that the streets are not going to be safe by September, as the prime minister promised just two months ago," he said.

    "If ministers do not get the police back on the beat and get the criminal justice system to do the job it is supposed to, I predict that things will get much worse."

    The BBC's Daniel Sandford
    "Probably crime is stable after falling for years"
    UK Home Secretary David Blunkett
    "I am not pretending for a moment that there isn't a problem"
    Criminal policy researcher Professor Mike Hough
    "The British Crime Survey provides the better guide"
    Do you feel less safe?



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    See also:

    12 Jul 02 | Politics
    04 Jan 02 | England
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