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The BBC's Jon Silverman
"A five year plan to cut city robberies by 14% will be a new test of police efficiency"
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Home Secretary Jack Straw MP
"Across the country as a whole, our streets are relatively very safe"
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Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe MP
"Jack Straw is sending out two messages"
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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Big rise in violent crime
Police officers
Rising crime means calls for more police officers
A dramatic rise in violent crime has been revealed in the government's latest figures, while overall crime has risen by nearly 4%.

Home Office figures for England and Wales showed a total of 5.3 million offences reported to the police in 1999-2000 compared to 5.1 million in the previous year.

Responding to the news, Home Secretary Jack Straw stressed that Labour was determined to be tough on crime.

He told the BBC: "We came into government with a promise to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime, this is not an empty slogan at all."

But the Conservatives strongly criticised the government over the new figures, blaming them on falling police numbers.

Alcohol and violence

Although acknowledging that there were serious problems with the number of violent crimes and robberies, Mr Straw said police targeting of car crime and burglaries had seen both drop.

Promising to bear down on crime caused by drunken behaviour Mr Straw said: "There is a really serious problem about alcohol and violence.

"My generation, yes, used to go out and get drunk from time to time but I think it has got much worse."

Labour's law and order policy has failed

Ann Widdecombe
Saying the drunkenness of young people was a result of them having "more money in their pockets", Mr Straw added that they had a "greater susceptibility to get drunk".

The National Association of Probation Officers, has also highlighted the link between alcohol and crime and said the "vast majority" of domestic crime or offences carried out by someone known to the victim are alcohol related.

Regional variations

Turning to the fall in police numbers, Mr Straw said he hoped to reverse their decline. He said he was expecting some good news on police funding from Chancellor Gordon Brown's public spending review due later on Tuesday.

Mr Straw also called on police forces around the country to follow the example of those forces where crime had actually fallen over the last year, without the use of additional resources.

Out of the 43 police areas, 18 forces had experienced a drop in crime, while others had widely-varying figures for the same crime.

For example, Manchester recorded 11,726 violent crimes, compared with just 2,918 for Sheffield.

The figures also show a fall in the proportion of crimes solved - down from 29% to 25%.

'Seriously bad'

Responding for the Tories, shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said: "Today's figures show that crime is spiralling out of control with an appalling 190,000 more victims last year than in the previous 12 months. Things are getting worse, not better, under Tony Blair.

"When they came to office crime was falling. Their policies have caused this rise. Labour's law and order policy has failed," she said.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said the figures were "seriously bad" and demanded that the government increase police numbers, rather than just restore cuts.

He also called on the chancellor's spending review to lay the foundations for more radical strategies to tackle the link between drugs, alcohol and crime.

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