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Thursday, 12 September, 2002, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Street crime pledge 'met'
Tony Blair meeting police trainees
Police were asked to act swiftly by Tony Blair
Tony Blair's pledge to bring soaring street crime "under control" within five months has been met by an overall fall in the number of offences in the country's worst affected areas, the Home Office has announced.

Over the course of the initiative so far, from April to August, robberies and snatch thefts fell 14% across 10 targeted police forces.

We are confident that by the end of September we will have brought this problem under control

Tony Blair
The number of robbery offences was down 6% compared to the same period last year.

The government spent 67m on the initiative, and Home Secretary David Blunkett said on Thursday that it had resulted in 2,000 fewer robberies in August compared to March.

It was in April that Mr Blair, questioned in the House of Commons over soaring street crime, said he was "confident that by the end of September we will have brought this problem under control".

The extra funding included preventative work to target young people at risk of becoming involved in crime, truancy sweeps, video identity parades and drug treatment improvements.

Pledge sceptics

The Crown Prosecution Service is also allocating specialist prosecutors and courts to street crime cases, which in several instances has resulted in offenders being sentenced within seven days.

Political opponents and many commentators were sceptical that the efforts would have any effect in the light of the 31% rise in street crime over last year.

It was never made clear whether the prime minister meant he wanted street crime levels reduced overall or the increase slowed.

And Mr Blunkett later stressed that he would not consider it a resigning matter if the pledge was not met.

Street crime: Up or down?
Met Police: -9%
W Midlands: -27%
W Yorkshire: -22%
Gtr Manchester:
Merseyside: -2%
Avon and Somerset: -20%
S Yorkshire: -25%
Thames Valley:
Lancashire: +9%
But of the 10 targeted forces only one, Lancashire, saw an increase in street crime between April and August, of 9%, and that in an area with the fewest offences in total.

It is thought some forces including Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Nottinghamshire may miss their individual Home Office targets set for the end of September, although they have seen reductions in robberies.

The best performing constabulary was West Midlands, which saw a 27% reduction in street crime, followed by South Yorkshire, with a 25% fall.

London saw big successes too, with Wandsworth in the south of the capital recording a 31% cut in street crime.

Mr Blunkett was there on Thursday with Met Commissioner Sir John Stevens to thank officers for their efforts.

The home secretary said: "We know we haven't cracked it completely, we know that until people really, genuinely feel safer we won't have achieved what we want.

"But the figures today really do show that the police are doing their job and we should rejoice in that."

Sir John Stevens (l) and David Blunkett in Wandsworth, London
Mr Blunkett revealed figures with Met Commissioner Sir John Stevens
He pledged that the fight against street crime would not stop "now or at the end of September".

But Professor Phil Scraton, director of the Centre for Studies in Crime and Social Justice at Edge Hill University College, told BBC News Online without in-depth analysis the interim figures needed to be treated "cautiously".

"They're good for headlines but we really need to know what is going on behind the scenes.

"Compare the apparently spectacular reduction in the West Midlands with the significant increase in Lancashire - what is actually going on to have produced such a distortion?"

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes questioned whether, for example, car crime or burglaries had gone up over the same period and said the figures needed to be looked at in a wider context.

"It's right to concentrate on this area, but you can't make a judgement unless you see the crime figures as a whole over the period as a whole.

"The government really shouldn't choose a very odd period of four and a half months and some figures to persuade us that everything is under the control the prime minister promised."

The BBC's Niall Dickson
"There are worries about what might happen when the extra money runs out"
The BBC's Richard Bilton
"Senior officers say some of the changes will stay, but it will take money to keep the cuts in street crime"
See also:

12 Sep 02 | England
26 Apr 02 | Politics
24 Apr 02 | Politics
24 Apr 02 | England
15 Jan 02 | Europe
18 Dec 01 | Politics
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