Met chief says Londoners are safe to leave their doors open

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The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, has said that London is returning to an era of low crime, in which its citizens are happy to leave their front doors open - comments apparently at variance with government crime figures as well as many a Londoner's personal experiences.

Sir Ian made his comments in an interview published yesterday by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in its magazine Criminal Justice Matters, when he referred to a recent visit to Haringey in north London.

He said: "How long is it since the police patrolled the corridors of a tower block? When the slums they replaced were flattened, the police stopped patrolling, and people are leaving their doors open - or unlocked, certainly - in a way they haven't for 25 years."

The commissioner's comments are not borne out by statistics. In the year to July, Haringey police dealt with 2,834 burglaries, or 54 a week. National figures put the number of burglaries at anywhere between 645,000 and 880,000 - or up to 100 burglaries every hour of the day and night. Representatives of the insurance industry said yesterday that anyone who followed Sir Ian's advice and left their doors open would invalidate their insurance policies.

In the same interview Sir Ian also claimed that ethnic minority communities now trusted the police. And when challenged on this he added: "I mean this is an organisation that 15 or 20 years ago was absolutely unable to understand how to deal with minority communities, and the kinds of stories that you've just raised were everyday affairs, but they are now quite rare. We have them and will deal with them, but over the last two or three years, you'd be pushed to find 10."

Sir Ian is no stranger to controversy, such as over his stance in the aftermath of a recent raid on a Forest Gate home, where two men were suspected of possessing a chemical jacket usable for terrorist purposes. No such device was found.