Mobile phones and iPods fuel rise in muggings

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The Independent Online

The number of muggings has soared as thieves target teenagers carrying expensive mobile phones and iPods.

The 11 per cent increase in robbery is an embarrassment to the Government. Three years ago, Tony Blair launched a high-profile "street crime initiative" and police started a crackdown on muggers in 10 inner-city areas last April. But 23,500 street robberies were recorded in the third quarter of 2005, compared with 21,200 in the same period the year before.

Total levels of violent crime, including assaults and wounding, rose by 4 per cent to 315,800, nearly half fuelled by alcohol.

Just over 11,000 gun-crime incidents were recorded, an increase of 1 per cent. The rises overshadow sustained falls in the overall crime rate over the past 10 years, largely driven by cuts in burglary and car theft.

The latest figures showed a 1 per cent drop in total recorded crime, with 1.370,000 offences reported to police between July and September 2005.

The separate British Crime Survey, based on interviews with people, shows levels of violent and all types of crime are falling.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, acknowledged that some police forces were "more successful than others" in tackling mugging.

He said: "The war against crime we are winning. But I can point to battles - and street crime is an example - where we are not doing as well as we need to."

Nick Herbert, the Tory home affairs spokesman, said: "Tony Blair said 'Crime figures are the measure of whether this Government is succeeding or failing'. On this test, the Government is clearly failing the public when it comes to violent crime."

Alistair Carmichael, home affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, denounced the "worrying failure of the Government to implement their tough talk nationally at street level locally".

Mr Clarke announced yesterday a review of crime statistics - to be conducted by statisticians, police, journalists and opposition party representatives - in an effort to find a measure that was "transparent and trusted".

He said: "Despite most crime categories falling, fear of crime is still too high and public perception is often at odds with reality. That is why we need to look again at the statistics and find why people do not believe them."

Other Home Office figures showed numbers of drug offences leapt by 19 per cent to 41,100, most for possession of cannabis.

Serious injuries from gun crimes rose by 18 per cent to 470, with slight injuries up 35 per cent to 3,600 in the year. But the number of deaths fell from 80 to 50.

* The introduction of community support officers (CSOs) over the past three years has not cut crime or antisocial behaviour, a Home Office report said.

There are 6,300 CSOs in England and Wales and the Government wants to boost their number to 24,000 by 2007-08.

But the report found "no evidence that CSOs were having a measurable impact on the level of recorded crime or reported incidents of antisocial behaviour in the areas where they were deployed".

A Home Office spokes-woman said the CSOs' main role was to "deal with quality of life issues that blight people's lives", but are often not reported to police.