Police scrap yellow scene-of-crime signs for fear they increase public paranoia

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Scotland Yard is scrapping the yellow street signs it uses to mark the sites of murders, robberies and assaults, in response to complaints that they are exacerbating public paranoia about crime.

Senior officers have ordered that the signs be toned down after objections and a request from one local authority that police stop using them. The development has prompted claims that the Metropolitan Police is worried fear of crime in the capital is out of control.

The Met admitted the yellow signs had been overused and contributed to the idea that the streets were not safe. A "less intimidating" design will use police blue at the top and will be headed "Can you help us?" instead of "Murder" or "Rape".

Earlier this month, Alexandra Shulman, the editor of Vogue, speaking after her nanny was a victim of a car-jacking, said she felt safer in New York than in London. "Everywhere you look there are big yellow signs appealing for witnesses to murders and muggings," she said.

Detective Sergeant Mike Parker said yesterday: "There was a concern that using the signs too often gave the public a disproportionately high fear of crime. One London authority was so concerned it asked local officers to stop using the signs and wanted to be consulted before any more were used."

A Yard spokesman said that, in future, signs would only be used in very serious cases such as murder and would be removed within two weeks.

David Wilson, a criminology professor at the University of Central England, said: "The signs that were being used exaggerated the public's fear of crime. They didn't make people more security-conscious. They just made law-abiding people afraid to go out on the streets at night, which makes the problem even worse."

The move came as figures showed that street crime in London soared by 49 per cent last month – to 309 a day – compared with January last year.

Last week, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, warned Sir John Stevens, the Met Commissioner, that action must be taken to bring down street crime in the next six months.

But Sir David Phillips, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "Forget the time limits, this is an issue that won't be solved with ultimata."