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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 January 2008, 14:27 GMT
Smith admits London street fear
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith
Ms Smith says she did walk around her Redditch constituency

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has admitted she would not feel safe walking around London after dark.

Ms Smith told the Sunday Times that she would not be comfortable alone at night in deprived parts of the capital, as well as more affluent areas.

Asked if she would feel safe walking alone in the Hackney neighbourhood, Ms Smith replied: "Well, no, but I don't think I'd have ever have done."

Labour says crime is down compared to the Tories' time in power in the 1990s.

'Fortunate'

In the interview with the Sunday Times, Ms Smith was asked why she would not feel safe on Hackney's streets at night.

She replied: "Well, I just don't think that's a thing that people do, is it, really?"

I don't get the opportunity to get out on my own now but I certainly have done in the recent past
Jacqui Smith
Home Secretary

She was also questioned about how she would feel if she was walking through the more affluent area of Kensington and Chelsea after dark.

"Well, I wouldn't walk around at midnight and I'm fortunate that I don't have to do that," she said.

Ms Smith told the newspaper she used to walk around Redditch, her constituency in Worcestershire, but added that she no longer got the chance because she was protected by police bodyguards.

"I don't get the opportunity to get out on my own now but I certainly have done in the recent past," she said.

'Kebab purchase'

Following the interview, the newspaper claimed it was contacted by one of the home secretary's aides who said that Ms Smith's remarks had not come out as she had intended.

The aide added that Ms Smith had recently "bought a kebab in Peckham" - an area of south London considered one of the most deprived.

It is shameful you can walk the streets of New York, Tokyo, Paris and Berlin safely at night, but not the streets of London
David Davis
Shadow home secretary

Challenged about the comments on BBC One's the Andrew Marr show, the home secretary said: "You don't walk in areas you don't know, in any circumstances."

But she said people were "much less likely to be a victim of crime" since Labour came to power.

But Sarah Teather, Lib Dem MP for Brent East, in north west London, said Ms Smith's comments showed she was "out of touch".

'No idea'

She told BBC London: "To think that people don't walk around late at night, and to think that everybody goes around in a cocooned ministerial car with a couple of policemen watching, is absolutely astonishing."

"I think she is out of touch. I think she has no idea. It's an astonishing admission of the government's failure.

"Instead of putting large amounts of money into an ID scheme which is not going to tackle crime, I think they should be putting that money into getting more police on the streets."

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "This is an astonishing admission by the Home Secretary.

"It is shameful you can walk the streets of New York, Tokyo, Paris and Berlin safely at night, but not the streets of London."

Figures released by the Metropolitan Police in October last year showed overall crime in London had dropped 6.1% between April and September 2007, but that gun crime had risen by nearly 10%.

Ms Smith told the newspaper the government had a "big job" to persuade people that towns and cities had not become more dangerous.

"I understand that whilst it's a fact that crime is falling, what you want to know is what's happening on your street; what the police officers in your area are doing and who they are," she said.

"That's one thing we'll provide to people. Serious violence is something we need to address."

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