40 raped in London every week

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The Independent Online
THE NUMBER of rapes reported in London has reached a record of almost 2,000 in 12 months - nearly 40 a week - according to figures released yesterday.

There were 1,993 rapes recorded in the Metropolitan Police areas in the year up to April 1999, compared with 1,838 the previous year. Sex offences excluding rape increased from 5,816 to 6,109. Scotland Yard believes the increase is partly due to greater willingness of victims to contact the police.

The trend for violence also appears to be rising. There were 131,549 violent attacks, including 138 murders, in the year from April 1998, while there have been 102 murders since January.

Only 44 per cent of the violent attacks, which include harassment, assault and grievous bodily harm, are solved by police, according to Sir Paul Condon's last annual report as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, which was published yesterday.

Scotland Yard said it could not compare the violent crimes figures with previous years, because of changes in the way the statistics were compiled.

On the positive side burglary fell by 8.3 per cent to its lowest level for 20 years. Yesterday's figures mark the end of a year that saw upheavals for the force, with attempts to root out corruption and criticisms in Sir William Macpherson of Cluny's report into the police handling of the Stephen Law-rence murder inquiry.

In his foreword to the report, Sir Paul said: "Whilst much has been achieved, this has also been one of the most difficult ...years in the history of the service. I honestly believe that we have come through this most difficult of years humbler, wiser, stronger and better placed ...to face the challenges of the new millennium."

Police union leaders have blamed the "Lawrence factor" for a big rise in street crime in the first three months of this year, arguing that officers are worried about being branded racist if they are overzealous in searching black suspects.

There was an overall 11 per cent increase in crime during the first three months of the year in London, while stop-and-searches fell by nearly 50 per cent.

Scotland Yard has argued that this rise is partly linked to a sharp increase in murder cases, which has forced them to redeploy officers away from other duties.