Police spend pounds 13m on mugging crackdown Campaign against muggers costs pounds 13m

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Operation Eagle Eye, a controversial police operation to crack down on muggings, has cost more than pounds 13m in its first year, according to figures from the Metropolitan Police.

The operation was launched in a storm of controversy a year ago this weekend after Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, claimed that the majority of muggers in London were young blacks.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, threw his weight behind the Commissioner, praising Sir Paul's "plain speaking" and "honesty" and claiming that Sir Paul had the backing of many black people who were themselves the target of the crime.

He said that Sir Paul "has evidence to show that over London as a whole, victim surveys indicate that 70 per cent of those responsible are black and in those areas where mugging is at its worst the proportion is higher".

A Scotland Yard spokesman said last night that it had no figures for the cost of the operation and no ethnic breakdown of those arrested.

But Met figures released yesterday to Bernie Grant, MP for Tottenham in north London, by Home Office minister David MacLean, said that during 1995/6 "pounds 4.8m was spent on vehicles, technology and training in support of Operation Eagle Eye".

Although the Met has no figures for staff costs for the last financial year, "the Commissioner estimates that personnel costs for Operation Eagle Eye for 1996/97 will be pounds 17.1m."

Mr Grant said last night: "Even if one makes a conservative estimate that the personnel costs were only half of that in the last financial year, that still amounts to pounds 8.5m for staff and a total cost for this operation of more than pounds 13m."

According to the Metropolitan Police statistics, arrests for street robbery in London have gone up by just under 1,300 (1,284) in the 12 months since the operation started. Earlier this year the Commissioner said the operation had been a success, despite the fact the number of muggings increased.

Mr Grant said the cost of the operation called into question its effectiveness. "By my calculation that comes to more than pounds 10,000 per arrest," Mr Grant said. "The conviction rate is not likely to be more than half of those arrested. This raises serious questions about why this operation was launched in the first place, what the agenda was behind it. If the Government had been serious about trying to tackle this sort of problem it would have considered what kind of training and job opportunities it could have created with pounds 13m."

No comment was available from the Commissioner.