Condon links drink to rise in violence

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S SENIOR police chief yesterday blamed excessive drinking among the young for the rise in violent crime.

Sir Paul Condon, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, in an interview with The Independent, said the nationwide problem of rising violence was linked to young people having more money for alcohol and a greater choice of places to drink. He also blamed the drug and rave culture.

There is growing concern over casual and unprovoked assaults. The number of violent crimes recorded by the police have increased every year for the past decade. Violent offences in Greater Manchester rose by 50 per cent in the past year, according to figures released last week.

Sir Paul said: "Where I think there has been a real increase is violence between young people linked to drink. That's where the growth is. It is about affluence, relative affluence of young people, their ability to drink and club. There are influences from the drugs and rave culture. "Lifestyle changes have encouraged violence in those sort of circumstances. It's about choice. There are more venues to go to."

The Home Office's chief criminologist has also expressed his fears about violent crime that is linked to alcohol, which rose to 350,700 offences in England and Wales in 1997 - it makes up eight per cent of all crime. The marketing of extra strong alcoholic drinks aimed at the young has also been identified as an influence.

The Home Office is at present reviewing the licensing laws and a coalition group of police, magistrates, brewers and local authorities yesterday claimed to be gaining support for new legislation to allow all-night drinking by the year 2000.

In London, while overall crime has declined in the past year, violent offences rose by six per cent. Sir Paul said it was often hard to tackle violent offences because they usually take place behind closed doors.

Among the techniques being considered by Scotland Yard are "naming and shaming" pubs and clubs in the media and installing surveillance cameras at trouble spots.

He revealed that Scotland Yard has drawn up extensive plans to deal with any violence or mass disturbances at the thousands of pubs and clubs in London planning to screen World Cup football.

Another reason for the rise in recorded violent offences is, Sir Paul believes, improved reporting and more sympathetic treatment of victims, particularly those of domestic violence and child abuse. Sir Paul also disclosed that the Metropolitan Police had set up an inquiry into why black people are far more likely than whites to be stopped and searched in the capital.

The commissioner defended the use of his force's stop-and-search practices, arguing that when the police tactic was reduced by half in a racially sensitive area of north London, the number of reported crime increased by one-third.

The comments follow an unpublished report, revealed in The Independent, which showed police in London stopped and searched 4.5 black people and 1.3 Asians for every white person, proportionate to population.

Research into the use of stop-and-search is at present being carried out at five pilot areas, including Tottenham in north London. Sir Paul explained: "We need to understand why young black men are disproportionately stopped."