Blunkett tells police to cut street crime

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The Independent Online

Police chiefs have been given six months to start stemming the rise in street crime or face intervention from the Home Office, David Blunkett warned yesterday.

The Home Secretary said the Metropolitan Police could be one of the first forces to have poorly performing divisions "taken over" under new powers proposed in the Police Reform Bill, unless there were improvements in tackling robbery and violent crime.

The Home Secretary said he expected changes to be made within six months and for the problem to be "turned around" within two years. A senior Home Office source said the ultimatum also applied to four other metropolitan forces where street crime and violence had been rising: Greater Manchester, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, and Merseyside.

Mr Blunkett's comments reveal his growing unease at the apparently unstoppable rise in street thefts, muggings, and violent assaults. Figures from the 43 police forces in England and Wales are believed to show that street crime, including muggings and bag snatches, has risen by 26 per cent in the past nine months. Street crime in the capital over that period is up by 33 per cent, from 26,715 incidents to 35,572.

Mr Blunkett warned Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police: "We will give you the freedom to do the job, but if you don't do it, I'll have to intervene.

"Because in the end the people of London, as with the rest of the country, will turn to me as Home Secretary and say, what did you do about it?"

The comment was his most explicit on how a new Police Standards Unit, proposed in the Police Reform Bill, would use its authority to take over failing divisions. The controversial Bill would grant the Home Secretary powers directly to order a chief constable to take specific actions to improve a force's performance.