Research warns of Asian crime 'timebomb'

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A serious upsurge in crime by young Asians, such as the recent Bradford riots, is likely to break out and cause a "moral panic" in Britain, according to Home Office research.

A demographic time bomb of Pakistani and Bangladeshi youths is likely to explode and could shatter the belief that Asians are more law abiding than white or black people in the United Kingdom, a criminology conference heard yesterday.

The warning was made by a senior Home Office research officer who pointed towards the growing number of young Asians being imprisoned as evidence that the problem was about to accelerate and argued that the "stereotype" of Asians as victims could soon be "unsustainable".

The warning follows three days of rioting in Bradford last month, which was partly blamed on the breakdown of discipline and hierarchy among Pakistani families as well as heavy handed policing.

A second study, which was also unveiled yesterday at the British Criminology Conference at Loughborough University of Technology, found that increasing numbers of young Asians are turning to violence to protect their neighbourhoods.

The suggestion that the country is on the verge of an outbreak of disorder caused by Asians is likely to cause a political furore at a time when the issue of crime and ethnic minorities is particularly sensitive.

Marian Fitzgerald, a principle research officer at the Home Office research and planning unit, quoting from her paper Race and crime: The facts? told a seminar yesterday: "Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are much younger than the black group and larger numbers than previously are just about now hitting the peak period for offending.

"Inevitably we are facing a likely upsurge in criminal involvement among these groups - although it will continue to be masked as long as it is subsumed within an omnibus 'Asian' category. Once this becomes apparent and it reaches the public agenda, there is an obvious danger that we shall witness a new moral panic. I shall simply at this point mention the single word 'Bradford'."

She said that in 1991 19 per cent of whites were aged 0-15, compared with 22 per cent ofAfro-Caribbeans, 29 per cent of Indians and 43 and 47 per cent respectively of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.

She argued that there was a "notable" increase in the number of Asians being jailed in young offenders' institutions. The percentage of the Asian adult prison population has increased from 2.3 per cent in 1985 to 3.1 per cent in 1992 compared to 10.2 per cent of Afro-Caribbeans and 83.3 per cent of whites.

A second study, Local Heroes: Youth crime, victimisation and racial harassment, by Colin Webster, of Bradford and Ilkley Community College, found that the Asian community in Bradford was increasingly "fighting back" against white racists. In a six-year study that started in 1988, Mr Webster found that white on Asian attacks appeared to have declined but that Asian on white attacks had increased in some parts of the city.

He said: "Asian youngsters became increasingly adept in establishing, maintaining and extending 'safe areas' through loosely organised self- defence groups that deterred white incursions into their areas".

He argued that "white fear" was the main reason for the reduction in the number of attacks on Asians. "The overall effect was that Asians were able to 'own' their residential areas and certain parks, whereas whites continued to dominate the town centre where there is in effect a curfew placed on Asians," he said.

The reports follow the row sparked by Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, when, in a letter to black community leaders, he suggested most muggings in London are carried out by black youths.