Law and order: Blair turns to zero tolerance for crime

Penal reformers have warned against introducing `macho policing' that could lead to inner-city riots
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The Independent Online
ZERO TOLERANCE policing is to be imposed on the 20 most crime- ridden estates and inner-city areas in England and Wales under a pounds 32m initiative by Tony Blair yesterday.

The tough crime policy will concentrate on cracking down on persistent offenders, car crime, offences against children and black people, and anti-social behaviour.

But penal reformers yesterday warned against introducing "macho policing" that could result in "inner-city riots" and Home Office research has also questioned the effectiveness of the American style system.

In a second initiative the Prime Minister announced plans to cut the rising number of car crimes by a third over the next five years.

In calling for "zero tolerance" of crime, Mr Blair pointed to policing strategies which had cut burglary by up to a third in places such as Huddersfield and Leicester.

Under the proposals local authorities and the police will draw up lists of the most lawless housing estates and city areas or "hot spots" from which 20 sites will be chosen to receive extra resources from next April. Crimes that will be targeted include burglary, offences at school, problems at children's homes, racial attacks, alcohol-fuelled incidents, anti- social behaviour, robbery and violence.

A number of anti-crime measures will be used to reduce lawlessness, including policing in which the authorities take action against any offence, however small, the targeting of persistent offenders, better home security and diversion projects such as special areas where teenagers can spray graffiti.

The widescale use of zero tolerance is a tacit admittance by the Government that many of the current policing tactics and the increasing number of people being jailed is failing to turn the tide on crime.

However, latest research from the Home Office warned there were "large question marks" over its long-term effects. It warned that "over zealous" policing "can lead to poor police-community relations".

Zero tolerance is based on the American "broken window" theory which argues that allowing a climate of disorder to engulf a community would lead to more serious crime.

The approach was championed in Britain by Detective Superintendent Ray Mallon in Middlesbrough who gained national prominence by his use of zero tolerance that saw the crime level fall in Cleveland.

However, the policy was criticised after Det Supt Mallon was suspended and a major inquiry was set up into allegations that officers from Middlesbrough CID were threatening suspects and offering drugs for information.

Other chief constables have also questioned the use of zero tolerance.

Paul Cavadino, principal officer of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders added yesterday: "Some forms of zero tolerance involve the kind of macho policing which produced the inner- city riots in the 1980s."