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Jon Silverman reports for BBC News
"The total number of recorded crimes has gone up for the first time in 6 years"
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The BBC's Betty Redondo
"The home secretary reiterated the government's commitment to cutting long term growth in crime"
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UK Home Secretary Jack Straw
"It's not depressing, it's a mixed picture"
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Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 16:02 GMT
Street crime surges

A huge surge in muggings, amid a worrying rise in violent crime, have been revealed in Home Office statistics.

Crime figures for England and Wales, 1998/99
Overall crime rose by 2.2%
Recorded crime fell in 24 out of the 43 police forces
84% of offences were against property
13% were violent crimes
The figures for recorded offences, a blow to the government's anti-crime crusade, show the first rise in England and Wales for six years.

The number of robberies - most of them muggings - increased by 19% in the year to September 1999 compared with a fall of nearly 6% over the previous 12 months.

Overall, police in England and Wales recorded a total of 5.2 million offences in the year to September 1999 - an increase of 2.2%.

'Hard reality'

Home Secretary Jack Straw acknowledged the increase, but said the figures showed "a dramatic variation in crime rates across the country".

Jack Straw: Variation in crime rates across country
But Fred Broughton, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, immediately demanded more cash to deal with a situation which he said was "nothing short of alarming".

He said: "The figures are the hard reality of fewer police, underfunding and big increases in workloads."

The home office figures showed that the biggest rise in crime was recorded by the City of London force, which saw a 22% rise, followed by the West Midlands force (16%) and Bedfordshire (12%).

Stop and search

In London, Britain's biggest force, the Metropolitan Police, saw its total number of offences top the million mark with a 9% rise in offences.

The city has witnessed a heated debate over stop and search tactics which have disproportionately targeted members of the black community.

Crime figures for England and Wales 1998/99
Violent offences: Up 5%
Sexual offences: Up 2%
Robberies: Up 19%
Domestic burglary: Down 5%
Non-domestic burglary: Down 3%
Theft of motor vehicles: Down 2%
Stop and searches have declined following the Macpherson Report into the death of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence - which criticised the tendency to target black and Asian youths.

Some senior policemen have blamed that for an increase in street crime, and Mr Straw admitted the reluctance of officers to use stop and search powers following the report "may have been a factor" behind the rise.

He said: "It has obviously made a difference. I am aware of course that the Lawrence report did represent a deep trauma for many officers in the Metropolitan Police Service and they became very concerned indeed about whether actions on the street could be categorised as racist.

"We want to see the Metropolitan Police use those powers. I think we will see, after the shock to the service in the past year as a result of the Lawrence report, an improvement in their work on the streets."

The figures released on Tuesday are broken down into divisional areas of police forces for the first time.

They show a variable picture of the ability of forces to tackle crime, with Lancashire showing the biggest drop in offences with 11%.

Rapes increase sharply

The rise in violent crime, which includes attacks, sex offences and robbery, is the largest since 1995/1996, when attacks increased by 10%.

John Stevens John Stevens: Meeting Mr Blair
Paul Wiles, director of Research, Development and Statistics at the home office, said the overall increase in crime was caused by the rises recorded by just two forces, the Metropolitan Police and the West Midlands force, which saw a combined rise in offences of 129,000, larger than the overall increase across England and Wales of 115,000.

But he said both these forces had been affected particularly by a new system for recording crime.

The report said two-thirds of the increased robberies had taken place in just four forces: the Met, West Midlands, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire.

Increased wealth

But West Yorkshire - along with Northumbria - was one of just two metropolitan forces where crime fell.

People will be quite right to demand an urgent explanation from the Home Secretary as to why we are less and less safe on our streets
Ann Widdecombe
Research published by the home office last year suggested Britain was on the brink of a sharp rise in crime, partly due to increased personal wealth.

Most offences are committed by men aged under 24, while the 1980s baby boom also contributed to warnings of imminent problems.

Publication of the crime figures coincided with the first meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair and the incoming Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, John Stevens.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said the figures gave the government "a clear warning" that police chiefs need increased resources.

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said: "People will be quite right to demand an urgent explanation from the Home Secretary as to why we are less and less safe on our streets and in our homes under the party who promised to be tough on crime."

Crime figures for Scotland will be published in March or April.

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See also:
18 Jan 00 |  UK
Crime figures: force by force
18 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
New Met boss meets Blair
18 Jan 00 |  UK
Nice cop, nasty job
18 Jan 00 |  UK
Q & A: Crime figures
18 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Widdecombe in stop-and-search warning
15 Dec 99 |  UK
Stop and search: Two sides speak
29 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
DNA testing expanded
15 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Crime bill focuses on drugs
18 Jan 00 |  Wales
Violent crime rises in Wales

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