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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Blair targets prolific criminals
Tony Blair
Mr Blair was flagging up measures to tackle hardened criminals
Tony Blair has unveiled a crackdown on Britain's 5,000 most prolific criminals in a speech on Tuesday.

The prime minister wants hardcore offenders including drug dealers, vandals and thieves stopped.

Nearly one in 10 crimes are committed by 0.5% of offenders and it is understood some may be warned they will be targeted on leaving prison.

Mr Blair said that police and other agencies must use new anti-social behaviour measures to the full.

Mr Blair said: "A hard core of prolific offenders, just 5,000 people, commit around one million crimes each year, nearly 10% of all crime.

The police will deploy modern surveillance techniques
Tony Blair

"That's only 15 or 20 people for each of our Crime and Disorder Relationship Partnerships, yet they are wreaking havoc.

"The financial loss is estimated to be at least 2bn per year."


Among the options available is the installation of CCTV cameras covering the homes of the worst offenders.

The measure would be aimed at stopping them intimidating neighbours who could give evidence against them.

Mr Blair said: "To target these prolific offenders the police will deploy modern surveillance techniques and intensive intelligence gathering - including individually targeted CCTV - to collect evidence to support more successful prosecutions."

On average each of the 376 partnerships set up to crack crime across England and Wales will target just 15 criminals each.

They will be selected on the basis of probation reports and their records.

Phone tapping?

A pilot scheme in north Bristol is thought to have saved an estimated 1.9m since April 2002 after 16 criminals were targeted.

The number of offences they committed went down by three-quarters, from 1,600 to 400, compared to predictions based on previous rates.

Mr Blair also raised the prospect of greater powers to allow police to tap phones.

"The Met believe that threshold is too high for intrusive surveillance and prevents them from carrying out such activity on people who may be prolific offenders but whose offending has not reached the level required.

"We will review this situation with them, and if necessary legislate to give police the powers they need."

Limited success?

Mr Blair's speech to the Local Government Association conference in London came ahead of the introduction of new anti-social measures on Wednesday.

Crime is likely to be a central battleground in the next general election, widely predicted for 2005.

Among the measures, security guards at shopping centres will be given the power to issue penalty notices.

Fines of 50 will also be introduced for graffiti and fly-posting.

BBC political correspondent Jonathan Beale said Mr Blair has long seen tackling anti-social behaviour as one of his political priorities though some of the measures, such as anti-social behaviour orders, appear to have had limited success.


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