Labour Conference: Straw orders burglary blitz

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S WORST crime blackspots are to be targeted in a pounds 50m anti-burglary campaign, the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, announced yesterday.

More than 2 million homes across the country will be included in the drive to tackle record levels of the "sickening and traumatic" crime, Mr Straw said.

In a wide-ranging speech to the conference, Mr Straw also unveiled plans to tackle youth crime, seize the assets of "Mr Big" career criminals and outlaw the cross-examination of rape victims by defendants.

The three-year anti-burglary initiative will provide 500 areas in England and Wales with mobile CCTV units, better street lighting and alarm loan schemes.

Described by the Home Secretary as the biggest ever crackdown on break- ins, the project will co-ordinate action by police and councils to improve prevention and detection of the crime.

"Beat the burglar" security advice packs will be sent to residents on 3,000 "sink" estates and a new rapid repair service will be introduced to help to prevent repeat victimisation.

Home Office research shows that such focused schemes can reduce expected levels of burglary by up to 30 per cent, saving the taxpayer up to pounds 90m.

"This country has the worst record in the Western world for burglary. Having one's home broken into is a sickening and traumatic experience," Mr Straw said.

"For many, the sense of violation and fear never fades. We must make a serious reduction in this serious crime and bring more burglars to book."

England and Wales have the highest burglary rate of the 11 industrialised countries featured in the International Crime Victimisation Survey, higher even than the United States.

Police recorded more than a million burglaries last year, with home break- ins accounting for more than half of the total.

Mr Straw also announced that he would soon bring forward plans to give courts new civil powers to seize and confiscate the assets of drug barons who led lives of luxury.

Only pounds 5m of the proceeds of trafficking is confiscated each year even though the illegal drug trade is estimated to be worth up to pounds 9.9bn.

The civil rights group, Liberty, attacked the proposals, claiming they could lead to innocent people having assets seized purely on suspicion.

Mr Straw stressed that any such measures would comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Home Secretary pointed out that an extra pounds 1.25bn would be given to the police over the next three years to combat crime.

He announced that the Government would act on its promise to halt cross- examination of rape victims by the accused. Courts will also be given greater powers to halt irrelevant questioning about a victim's sexual history.

Mr Straw confirmed that a draft Freedom of Information Bill would be published early in the new year.

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