Page last updated at 10:11 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 11:11 UK

Migrant crime fears 'unfounded'

Cambridgeshire Police's Chief Constable Julie Spence [right]
Chief Constable Julie Spence said a migrant influx had led to tensions

The influx of migrant workers into England and Wales from eastern Europe has not led to the crime wave that some have suggested, a police report says.

Since 2004, about 800,000 people have registered for work in Britain from many eastern European countries.

The report by two chief constables has been sent to the home secretary ahead of a meeting with senior officers.

It says the influx of migrants has created problems in some areas but overall crime levels have not risen.

With the recent expansion of the EU, migrants have entered the UK from such countries as Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, and more recently Romania and Bulgaria.

Last year, Cambridgeshire's chief constable, Julie Spence, sparked controversy by claiming the sudden influx in east European workers had led to community tensions and increases in certain types of crime.

Several other forces said they were having similar problems.

Nationality records

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) canvassed the views of detectives and community officers across the UK.

It found no evidence that crime was more prevalent among East Europeans than other groups.

It said the sheer number of migrants in some areas had caused tensions and policing pressures - but the problems were minimal.

Our workload and its complexity is increasing
Julie Spence
Cambridgeshire Chief Constable

The chief constables' study comes three days after figures released by 25 police forces in England and Wales indicated that one-in-five people convicted or charged with murder in the 12 months to April 2007 was foreign.

In figures released by the Home Office in January, recorded crime in England and Wales was down by 9% from July to September last year compared with the same period in the previous year.

Acpo's head of race and diversity, Peter Fahy, who co-wrote the report, said: "We have got...a fairly significant reduction in crime across the whole country.

"So it wouldn't really make sense that given we've brought in something like 800,000 to 1,000,000 from eastern Europe, during that period crime has actually fallen significantly."

Sudden wave

Mr Fahy said immigrants were not criminals, although there had been tensions in some parts of the country, and sought to qualify the comments made last year by Ms Spence.

We have had huge increases in the interpreters budget, but that's not really just about eastern Europeans being offenders, it's also about them being victims and witnesses of crime
Peter Fahy, Acpo

"Our report is very clear: it has led to an increase in some tensions.

"Particularly, say, those areas which have had higher concentrations - you get misunderstandings, you get rumours, you've got big pressure on things like housing. You get rumours that wages are being held down," Mr Fahy said.

"What is different about this wave of immigration is that it's so sudden.

"Which has created a different dynamic which has created tensions and people like Julie Spence have pointed out that we have had huge increases in the interpreters budget, but that's not really just about eastern Europeans being offenders, it's also about them being victims and witnesses of crime."

He said the nationality of offenders should be recorded to make it easier to monitor crime trends, and called on eastern European states to share criminal intelligence more widely.

'Modern-day slavery'

Mrs Spence stood by her comments, saying that immigrants were not responsible for a "crime wave" but recent population growth had given police "significant challenges", particularly with non-English speakers, as the force deals with people from 93 cultures, speaking 100 languages.

"Looking after victims and witnesses and managing community tensions is substantially more complex now than three years ago," she said.

"We have seen an increase in specific offences such as motoring offences, sex trafficking, and worker exploitation - a form of modern-day slavery. Our workload and its complexity is increasing.

"Some parts of the country are no doubt unaffected by this. However, Cambridgeshire certainly is."

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she would examine the report in detail.

"[The report] is very helpful for getting the issues into proportion.

"When new people come into any community, it can bring pressures - those changes need to be responded to - and I wanted to work with chief police officers to find the best way of doing that."

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Julie Spence stands by the comments she made in September

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