British Crime Rate
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Violent crime 'rise' sparks row  4/21/2005
Crime rate part two  4/21/2005
Crime figures  4/21/2005

 Violent crime 'rise' sparks row



Labour promises a six-fold increase in community support officers. 
The main parties are seeking to bolster their law and order credentials after figures showed violent crime up in England and Wales.

Overall in the last three months of 2004 - violent crime rose 9%.

Tony Blair said more needed to be done to tackle violent crime, and pledged a 15% cut in overall crime by 2008.

The Lib Dems and Tories both want to tackle crime by increasing police numbers, particularly on the beat.

Controversy

The recorded crime figures, for the last three months of 2004, show firearms crimes rose 10%. 

Labour is planning to introduce a Violent Crime Reduction Bill if re-elected. A big aspect of the bill will be action against knives and a possible ban on replica firearms, something previously believed to be impractical.

Huge issue

Conservative leader Michael Howard said crime had risen 15% since 1998 and said: "What people want is not more talk from Mr Blair, they want action and that is what a Conservative government will deliver.

"More police, less paperwork, tough sentences - that's the way to bring crime under control and that's what a Conservative government will do."

Labour say crime has fallen by 30% since they came to power in 1997, and Mr Blair stressed crime-cutting plans such as increasing the number of community support officers from 4,000 to 24,000 by 2008.  [Just what free people need - a cop on every corner]

Mr Blair said crime and anti-social behaviour remained a "huge issue".  He said he recognised that people wanted a "visible uniformed presence - it may not always cut crime but it will certainly help cut the fear of crime".  [What damn use is that, less fear puts more people on the street to be mugged]

The Lib Dems criticised the Labour pledge, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "Labour's promises ring hollow in the light of the latest violent crime figures."

Phone-in

Mr Blair was lambasted on the issue on a BBC Radio Five Live phone-in by a caller who said he was a police officer from Boston.  He asked the Labour leader: "Why do you continually make my job harder by telling the general public there's more police officers than there's ever been, when for every police officer you put in rank and file on the street you've probably put another four in offices?"

Mr Blair said Labour was using legislation on anti-social behaviour and binge drinking to help tackle crime, and was making sure children were kept away from crime by a series of after-school and other programmes.
 

  Crime rate part two
 
Labour promised to be "tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime".

One in four households are victims of crime each year and the recorded crime rate has gone up.

Many crimes - such as shoplifting and anti-social behaviour - are not fully recorded by either method.
 
Violent crime

More than one million people are the victims of violent crimes each year.

This number has been increasing rapidly - Overall, violent crime rose by 11% last year, with the biggest increases in violence against the person and rape.

The government wants to tackle "yob culture" by giving the police more powers to tackle disorderly behaviour in town centres with on-the-spot fines
 
Policing

All parties have pledged to increase police numbers to fight crime.
The number of police has increased by 10% since Labour came into power and reached 139,000 by August 2004.
The Tories would add 40,000 more, the LibDems 10,000.
But crime clear-up rates are still low.
Both the government and opposition parties want more community policing, with the Conservatives calling for elected police commissioners.
Drugs

Labour is reviewing its decision to reclassify cannabis as a less dangerous Class C drug in 2004.
The idea was to free up police time to pursue hard drugs and drug dealers, instead of arresting people who use small amounts.
The Conservatives say the move caused confusion among the public and will reverse the decision.
The Liberal Democrats have a long-term goal of legalising cannabis and ending imprisonment for personal use of any illegal drug.
ASBOs

The government believes that tackling minor crimes and anti-social behaviour is the key to reducing crime rates.
One of its key weapons is the anti-social behaviour order (ASBO).
This is a court order obtained by the police or local authority to prohibit individuals from disruptive behaviour.
The Tories say they have got off to a slow start, while the Lib Dems would like to limit their use still further.
 
Prisons

The prison population has increased by 25,000 in the last ten years to a record
high of nearly 75,000.  The rise in prison numbers reflect tougher sentencing policies, with more custodial sentences for burglary.

The Conservatives argue that even longer sentences without early release would help reduce the crime rate, and want 20,000 more prison places.

Half of prisons in England and Wales are overcrowded, with one in four sharing single cells.

  Election fact check: Crime figures

The Claim

Labour's Tony Blair says that crime is down 30% since 1997. Conservative leader Michael Howard says that crime is up 15% since 1998. So who is right?

Background

There are two measures of crime in England and Wales.
One is based on the crimes reported to, and recorded by, the police.
The other is based on a sample survey of 40,000 people, called the British Crime Survey (BCS), which was introduced because of concerns that many people did not bother to report crime.

Both have their limitations.

The British Crime Survey only takes place every year, and does not record crimes which are serious but too small statistically to measure (such as murder and rape) or crimes committed against businesses (such as fraud or shoplifting) or against people under 16 (since it only surveys adults).

The police recorded crime figures - which are produced every 3 months - can be inconsistent between different police forces, and comparisons have suffered because of changes in recording procedures.  For example, the police are now required to note each separate assault when there is a pub brawl as a separate offence, rather than one crime.

The Facts

The two methods of measuring crime produce different long-term trends.  The BCS, which started in 1981, suggests that total crime peaked in 1995, and has been falling steadily since Labour came to power.



BCS interviews Jan-Dec 2004
Police records Oct-Dec 2004
Comparisons with previous year
The latest British Crime Survey suggests that the overall level of crime has declined from 12,088,000 crimes in 2003 to 10,811,000 in 2004 (down from around 16m in 1997, a fall of 33%). Violent crime was also down by 10% on this measure

However, the level of violence against the person recorded by the police rose by 10% in the three months Oct-Dec 2004 compared to the same period one year before, and more serious offences (including murder and serious wounding) were up by 4%.
And firearms offences, including those using replica weapons, were up 10%.
Overall, police recorded crime rose from 5.1m in 1998 to 5.7m in 2004, an increase of 17%
So both sides can cite figures to prove their case.
However, it is also significant that the fear of crime has fallen much less sharply in the BCS than actual crime, and there have been no changes in the perceived level of anti-social behaviour.
 

The Conclusion
Certain types of violent crime of particular concern to the public are rising, according to the official recorded crime figures.

While the figures may produce some confusion, it is the fear of crime that all political parties are seeking to address with their plans for increasing numbers of police and additional plans to tackle anti-social behaviour.