Crime fall masks rise in violent offences

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The Independent Online
VIOLENT crime in England and Wales is continuing to increase despite an 8 per cent fall in the past year in the number of recorded offences, the Home Office will reveal today.

The number of crimes recorded by the police has fallen to about 4.6 million - the lowest total since 1990. The decrease is largely due to improvements in deterring house break-ins and car crime.

But despite the improvements the authorities are unable to halt offences involving violence, such as rape and assault. Only one year out of the past 10 - 1995 - has seen a drop in this category.

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, will be particularly concerned at the inability of the police and courts, backed by tough new laws, to reverse the trend.

The figures to be published today cover the whole of 1997. The last set of annual statistics revealed an 11 per cent increase in violent offences up to 344,300. The Home Office's annual statistics also revealed that the offences such as wounding or, other acts that endangered life, increased by 16.5 per cent, and sex crimes, including rape, continued to rise in frequency.

Violent crimes only make up about 7 per cent of all offences, thus improvements in property and vehicle prevention have a far greater impact on the overall total.

The Home Office's chief statistician has argued that violent crime is rising as more people can now afford to drink to excess and are becoming drunk and disorderly.

Chris Nuttall, director of the Home Office research and statistics directorate, has said: "Changes in violent crime are related to the economy. They seem to relate to the consumption of beer - mostly in pubs and clubs. Drug consumption is more likely to affect property crime."

From today, the way the twice-yearly crime figures are published are being over-hauled in an attempt to provide a more accurate total and cut the political controversy that surrounds them. The previous system was criticised for the way a string of offences committed by an offender could end up being counted as just one crime. The new system would be broadly based on the principle of "one crime per victim".

t Chief constables could save more than pounds 80m a year if forces clubbed together to buy goods and services, such as computers and cars, a Home Office efficiency watchdog reported yesterday. The money saved would be enough to run a medium-sized police force.

The study, What Price Policing? by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, also proposed fining forces that pulled out of joint deals and left colleagues in other parts of the country with an additional bill. Chief constables could be "fined" the extra costs, says the report.