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Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Crime figures drop 10%
Crime scene
Police forces have welcomed the figures
People in England and Wales report a 10% drop in crime between 1997 and 1999.

But their perception is that things got worse, and the government is warning against complacency.

What has actually happened is the first rise in crime for six years

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe
Nineteen thousand people were interviewed for the British Crime Survey, which reflects their experiences of crime rather than official police figures.

Overall the figures show a 10% drop from when the survey was last conducted in 1997. Burglary dropped by 21% to its lowest level since 1982.

Car theft and thefts from vehicles were also considerably lower, but robbery was up by 14% and assaults where the victim did not know the attacker were up by 29%.

Click here to see the figures in detail.

Analysts who have studied the survey believe the overall drop could be a consequence of crime becoming less "fashionable".

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said the most recent Home Office figures showed that crime was rising and that the latest survey reflected falls under the previous Tory government.

"Quite clearly some of the effects of falling crime that we left behind will be seen in this," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"The fact is, the previous survey showed that crime had fallen by an even greater amount. What has actually happened is the first rise in crime for six years."

The Home Office believes Britain's improved economy means fewer teenagers are tempted to break the law.

The survey shows that when young people commited a crime, alcohol frequently proved to be the cause of the incident.
Jack Straw MP
Survey results are good news for Labour
Home Secretary Jack Straw welcomed the downward trend but promised more work on tackling crime.

"Crime is still far too high in this country,'' he said.

"We are not complacent. We know more needs to be done but the results show what can be done when crimes are properly targeted."

Mr Straw said there was growing intolerance of crime which had led to more people reporting incidents to the police.

Despite the figures showing a decrease, the public's perception was that crime was rising.

Two thirds of those questioned believed the problem had got worse in the past two years.

High profile instances of rural crime have left many country people feeling vulnerable. But the survey suggests their fears are unjustified.

Those living in the country were half as likely to become crime victims as adults who live in urban areas.

Crime hotspots

The survey shows some areas had particular problems. Yorkshire and Humberside had the highest burglary rates and vehicle crime was worst in the North West.

By contrast the East Midlands and East Anglia had the lowest car crime rates, and people in Wales were least likely to be victims of violent crime.

Ian Johnston, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the figures were a tribute to better policing.

He said community anti-crime projects and better police methods were shown to be working well.

Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said that unlike the survey, the most recent official crime figures showed the problem was getting worse.

"More police are needed to detect and deter crime, '' he said. "More must be done to reduce high re-offending rates among those who get caught."

Click here for more background and figures

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Home Secretary Jack Straw
"A sustained reduction in crime overall"
Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe
"What has actually happened is the first rise in crime for six years"
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