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Wednesday, August 25, 1999 Published at 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK

UK Politics

'Counting system' to increase crime figures

Recorded crime has fallen for five consecutive years

Home Secretary Jack Straw has warned that crime figures will jump by 20% this year as following the introduction of a new system for counting offences.

The revelation came as Mr Straw and Home Office officials embarked on an anti-crime tour of England and Wales with a visit to Middlesbrough.

Mr Straw also disclosed Home Office research which suggests partnership schemes intended to cut local crime rates are being hampered by a lack of co-operation from health trusts and education authorities.

Statistical changes

He said changes in the way crime statistics are compiled are in line with recommendations by senior police officers. They are intended to give a more accurate picture of the level of offences.

The leap in the crime figures will be partially due to the inclusion of common assaults figures for the first time.

[ image: Jack Staw says it remains to be seen what the underlying trend of crime is]
Jack Staw says it remains to be seen what the underlying trend of crime is
Some crimes with multiple victims which had been counted as one offence will also now be counted as multiple offences.

Consequently, this year's figures, to be published in October, are expected to show the number of offences recorded by police up to 5.4 million - an increase of 0.9 million since last year.

This rise also follows a drop in crime in each of the last five years.

Anti-crime partnerships

Mr Straw and his colleagues are set to visit 13 towns and cities over the next month to examine the progress of local crime-fighting partnership schemes.

[ image: Schools are being encouraged to join the partnerships]
Schools are being encouraged to join the partnerships
Under the initiative, police authorities, probation committees and health authorities are legally obliged to work together to assess local crime problems and draw up strategies to tackle them.

Other agencies are also expected to be drawn in, including schools, local businesses, voluntary groups and organisations.

But initial findings show that police in some "pathfinder" areas are having difficulties convincing the necessary bodies to get involved.

The research says that health trusts and education authorities in particular are questioning "what was in it for them".

However, Mr Straw insisted that Education Secretary David Blunkett and Health Secretary Frank Dobson were firmly behind the scheme.

Crime targets under attack

But the home secretary said while some areas had set clear targets for reducing crime, others had not and some had set "rather easy to achieve targets".

Inspectors were going around the country to "gee up" those areas thought to be slipping behind, he said.

Mr Straw said: "The successes of local partnerships are imperative if we are to deliver our commitment to achieving a real and sustainable reduction in crime and, as importantly, the fear of crime."

The government has pledged to cut the long-term growth in crime, to reduce vehicle crime by 30% within five years and to slash drug related offending by 50% by 2008.

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