Alcohol blamed for soaring levels of violent crime among young men

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A growth in alcohol-fuelled incidents among young men saw violent crime rise by 11 per cent during the final quarter of last year.

A growth in alcohol-fuelled incidents among young men saw violent crime rise by 11 per cent during the final quarter of last year.

The increase is the latest hike in recorded violence and means violent crime against the person rose by 17 per cent during 2003, according to police figures.

But despite the apparent alarming rise detailed in Home Office figures published yesterday, a second survey found that violent crime had dropped by 5 per cent in the 12 months to December 2003 compared with the previous year.

Both reports concluded that overall, crime remained stable.

The Home Office said much of the increase in violence was due to new recording procedures and the greater reporting of low-level thuggery, which rose by 21 per cent.

The police intend to target binge-drinking in town and city centres during the summer in an attempt to reduce the number of alcohol-related assaults.

Overall there were 271,500 incidents of violent crime recorded by police in England and Wales from October to December 2003, compared with the same period the previous year.

More serious violent crimes, such as murder and serious wounding, rose by 13 per cent, while "less serious" violent crime, such as assaults, was up 21 per cent to 106,000 incidents. The number of sexual offences rose 6 per cent to 12,600.

By contrast, the British Crime Survey (BCS), which is considered more accurate than the recorded crime figures because it includes many incidents that do not get reported to the police, suggests that violence is on the decline. The BCS estimated that there were 2,715,000 violent incidents experienced by adults in England and Wales in 2003, making up 22 per cent of all crime. By contrast there were just over one million violence offences recorded by the police in 2003 - 18 per cent of the total.

The Home Office estimates that alcohol is the root cause of about half of all violent crime, and connected to 70 per cent of late-night admissions to hospital emergency rooms.

Hazel Blears, a Home Office minister, said: "Crime overall is stable and I am pleased that crimes such as burglary, robbery and vehicle crime are continuing to fall significantly.

"But it is clear from these figures that crime trends are changing. There are increases in violent crime and, as our research on violent crime makes clear, this needs to be put into context."

She added: "Out-of-control drinking can turn a night out into a nightmare. The time has come to say enough is enough. The Government is cracking down on irresponsible landlords who encourage binge drinking, we are going to put an end to no-go city centres - reclaiming them for decent, law-abiding citizens."

Senior police officers admitted they were "dismayed" at the "worrying" trend in violent crime. Rick Naylor, president of the Police Superintendents' Association, said: "Alcohol- fuelled violence in town and city centres on Friday and Saturday nights has become the norm. We need to alter this state of affairs if we are going to make any impact on the rise in violent offences.

"The police and other emergency services are fed up with clearing up the broken bodies, broken glass, discarded kebabs and vomit which seem to follow every Friday and Saturday's so-called entertainment in towns and cities across the country."

Yesterday's reports also showed that the number of house burglaries recorded during the quarter fell 11 per cent to 98,400, and thefts of or from vehicles dropped 10 per cent. Recorded drug offences also dipped 2 per cent to 36,800 in the three-month period.

All types of crime studied by the BCS, which excludes offences against children, businesses and other institutions, fell by 1 per cent in the period.