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The BBC's Jon Silverman
"The rise in robberies is continuing"
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Home Office Minister, Charles Clarke MP
"Police numbers have been falling since 1993"
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Shadow Home Secretary, Ann Widdecombe MP
"I do not think the remedies put forward for dealing with young people are adequate"
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Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 06:57 GMT
Violent crime set for sharp rise
Police officers
The figures relate to crimes reported to police
Ministers are bracing themselves for the release of official figures showing a steep rise in violent crime, threatening to overshadow the government's bid to emphasise its tough approach to law and order.

The Home Office is set to publish figures on Tuesday showing that incidents of violent crime and street robbery rose by as much as 21% between October 1999 and September 2000.

The impact of the figures - set to show a small drop in overall crime - is expected to be softened by the announcement of a significant increase in the number of people joining the police force.

But the jump in violent offences reported to the police will form an embarrassing backdrop for Labour in the run-up to an expected spring election.

Home Secretary Jack Straw
Jack Straw has pledged to boost police numbers
And Conservative home affairs spokeswoman Ann Widdecombe renewed previous attacks over falling police numbers.

She said: "Labour has presided over a fall of 2,500 police since the last general election and this modest rise in the recruitment will not reverse that decrease before the election.

"We left behind rising police numbers, they have presided over a year on year loss."

The crime figures come just a week after Home Secretary Jack Straw pledged to boost police numbers to record levels within four years and after he unveiled an action plan to cut violent crime.

But the Conservatives are expected to use the statistics to launch an assault on Labour's record in tackling crime.

Pre-emptive action

Professor David Downs, a criminologist at the London School of Economics, said that violent crime has been rising for a decade and called for a long-term plan to tackle its causes.

He told the BBC: "You have the problem of a lot of the causes of crime still not being tackled in the worst-hit areas where, although you have falling unemployment, you still have pretty huge inequalities of wealth and that exacerbates this macho culture."

Mr Straw was accused last week of taking pre-emptive diversionary action against the higher crime figures when he launched his violent crime action plan.

The plan focused on cutting thefts of mobile phones - believed to account for much of the rise in violent crime.

Under the plan, police will receive extra cash to tackle robbery.

Mr Straw also announced plans to hold a summit with phone manufacturers to look at a number of proposals to improve security including the introduction of a more expensive "chip" which would incapacitate stolen handsets.

Crime-fighting "tool kits" containing information packs and CD-ROMs are also being distributed across the country to help local groups and police work together to tackle violent crime.

But Conservatives called the initiative a "gimmick" designed to distract attention from the fall in police numbers under Tony Blair's government.

These latest figures are not definitive since they only cover those crimes actually reported to police.

'More accurate' figures

The British Crime Survey, published last October, is regarded as a more accurate reflection of crime levels.

The survey, which looks at people's experience of crime rather than just those crimes reported to the police, showed a 4% fall in violence between 1997 and 1999.

The home secretary is also expected to say that a rise in police recruitment will help to stem the rise in tide.

It may also be suggested that the rise can be linked to people being more willing to report violent crime to the police.

For instance, evidence suggests that people believe that the police are taking incidents of violent crime, including race attacks, more seriously, and are more likely to report incidents.

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See also:

15 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Tories launch crime broadside
10 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Public losing confidence in police
08 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Straw pledges record police numbers
05 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Labour 'failing' on anti-crime pledge
29 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Tories call for youth crime crackdown
01 Jun 00 | UK Politics
New laws target youth crime
16 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Police recruit numbers on the rise
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