Page last updated at 00:25 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 01:25 UK

Crime fight 'hampered by funding'

The report said not enough was known about why children join gangs

Efforts to cut violent crime have been hampered by the government's failure to properly fund crime reduction projects, a group of MPs has said.

The Commons' public accounts committee said this left projects trying to cope with the consequences of gun and knife crime rather than tackling the causes.

MPs also said ministers had failed to support the Safer Schools initiative to identify children at risk of offending.

The government said action was "already under way" to address the concerns.

The committee's report said it was "worrying" that the number of 15 to 17-year-olds carrying a knife had doubled between 1998 and 2006.

It also said the number of crimes involving a gun had doubled in the same period.

Safer Schools

Many of the crime reduction programmes in England and Wales are run by local partnerships involving councils, police and residents.

They rely on Home Office funding to operate, but the committee said in its report that this was "often one-off and short-term" and provided late in the financial year.

This "poor distribution of funding" had "undermined" the partnerships' effectiveness, it said.

They need to know a lot more about why youths join gangs
Edward Leigh
Public Accounts Committee

The committee said projects lacked the resources to invest in crime prevention work, such as education, and instead simply had to focus on dealing with the consequences of violence.

It also accused the Home Office of failing to take "even the most basic steps" to work with the police to properly implement Safer Schools.

This meant individual schools lacked support when trying to overcome opposition to basing officers on their premises, it said.

The committee also found that nearly half of all partnerships did not have enough resources to analyse how much violent crime there was in their areas.

Chairman Edward Leigh said the Home Office and the police must address the "root causes" of why youngsters carried weapons.

"They need to know a lot more about why youths join gangs and how they can be diverted from membership," he said.

"This whole subject of violent crime is bedevilled by a continuing lack of reliable data on the effectiveness of interventions.

"The Home Office has been slow to collect the data and spread good practice."

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