Page last updated at 09:48 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 10:48 UK

UK 'failing' on causes of crime

Police officers
The critical report blames a focus on crime enforcement measures

The government has failed to carry out its election pledge to tackle the causes of crime, says a world expert on crime reduction.

Professor Irwin Waller said UK spending and policy had focused on enforcement - police, courts and prisons - and neglected crime prevention measures.

A report for Policy Exchange think tank estimated crime would cost the UK £78bn this year - equal to £3,000 per home.

The Home Office says the risk of being a crime victim is historically low.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair came into power in 1997 having promised to be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime".

'Widespread failure'

But Professor Waller's report claims little progress will be made until there is a plan for tackling the root causes of crime.

Preventing one offender in 10 from ending up in custody would save millions, he argues.

The government's desire for central control is blamed for the "widespread failure" of its crime reduction strategy launched in 2002.

The report also criticises ministers for missing meetings of the National Crime Reduction Board.


Professor Waller told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The Policy Exchange report doesn't ask anyone to stop spending money on catching offenders. It talks about balancing these expenditures with expenditures which will be effective in reducing the number of victims.

"Public opinion surveys show that the public in England and Wales - as in many other advanced democracies - are actually in favour of investments in prevention."

Gavin Lockhart, head of Policy Exchange's crime and justice unit and one of the report's authors, said: "After a decade of unprecedented spending on policing, courts and prisons, England and Wales have a recorded crime rate twice that of the European average.

"Prevention will not replace enforcement. But since the 1970s, in Western Europe and elsewhere, methods have been implemented that have reduced both crime and the costs of crime. We urgently need to do the same in this country."

Professor Waller, from the University of Ottawa, Canada, is part of the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime.

The Home Office said the government was determined to stay on the front foot in keeping down crime.

A spokesman said: "Statistics published last month actually show that overall crime is stable or falling and the risk of being a victim remains historically low.

"But we know we are facing some new challenges. That's why we are focusing our experience to tackle these head-on with millions of pounds invested in both prevention and enforcement."

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