Rising street crime hits efforts to cut road deaths, say police

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The Independent Online

Work to reduce deaths and injuries on the roads is being given a low priority because of the Government's attempts to cut street crime, senior police officers said yesterday.

Work to reduce deaths and injuries on the roads is being given a low priority because of the Government's attempts to cut street crime, senior police officers said yesterday.

Traffic officers are being diverted from life-saving duties to concentrate on mobile phone thefts, the Superintendents' Association warned. In London, traffic officers have been working in specialist traffic squads set up to reduce the rising number of street muggings and snatches. The Government has told chief constables that they must bring down street crime by the autumn.

New figures show that deaths on the roads in Britain rose in 2001 by 34 to 3,443, including 218 children. There were 37,000 serious injuries.

The Superintendents' Association called for more active road policing to be reinstated as a priority. Chief Superintendent Mike McAndrew, a former head of traffic in the Metropolitan Police and member of the association's national executive committee, said: "A lot more misery is caused by people being killed and injured on our roads than by youngsters stealing each other's mobile phones.

"The current balance is wrong and with current priorities, there is very little opportunity for proactive road policing. We can prevent accidents by improving driver behaviour and it is widely known that the key is reducing speed."

The warning came after a joint letter to the Government from motorists' groups and safety campaigners calling for more officers to be assigned to traffic duties.

The Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman on road policing, Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom of North Wales, said traffic offences needed to be given a higher priority. But increasing the number of traffic police was not necessarily the way forward, he said. Police forces should instead be looking at extending their use of new technology, such as speed cameras.