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"Criminologists say there is too much huffing and puffing"
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Monday, 10 July, 2000, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Crime figures rising say Tories
Smashed car window
Figures are expected to show a 3% rise in overall crime
Crime figures to be released next week will show at least 183,000 more offences were committed last year than in the previous 12 months, the Conservatives have said.

Official police figures gathered by the party from 33 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales will show an increase of almost 4.4% in reported crimes compared to the previous year, according to shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe.

The Conservatives chose to highlight the figures after accusing the government of attempting to cover them up by having their official publication on the same day as the chancellor's headline-grabbing comprehensive spending review.

The prime minister's spokesman rejected suggestions that the timing was politically motivated, and insisted the date of the crime figures announcement had been confirmed some time ago.

Reported crime on the up

The total number of crimes reported to the 33 forces in 1999-2000 was 4,353,079, compared to 4,169,724 in 1998-99.

Miss Widdecombe said: "Today's figures show that there were 183,000 more victims of crime last year.

"No wonder they planned to release these figures on the same day as the comprehensive spending review, in a pathetic attempt to minimise coverage.

"My research shows that ministers are right to be ashamed. Crime continues its inexorable rise under this government, across the board," she said.

When the Home Office officially publishes the figures they are expected to show a 10% rise in violent crime, and a 3% rise in overall crime.

'Fixed formula'

But the prime minister's spokesman rejected the suggestion that the timing had been politically motivated, saying the date of the crime figure announcement had been confirmed some time ago.

"One of the first things Jack Straw did was announce that the government would take the politics out of the crime figures, so the publication dates are set in accordance with a fixed formula," he insisted.

Tough on crime?

This latest figures will add currency to opposition claims that ministers are failing to tackle law and order.

The weekend's announcement that former BBC Director General John Birt was being appointed as an unpaid "crimebuster" has met with criticism and bewilderment in some quarters.

It follows Tony Blair's embarrassing climbdown over his plans to issue instant "cashpoint fines" to drunken louts, after police chiefs dismissed the plans as unworkable.

And last week his own son Euan Blair had a brush with the law - he was arrested for being "drunk and incapable" in Leicester Square.

Ministers are expected to play down the figures by pinpointing a 28% fall in domestic burglaries, the lowest level for a decade.

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