Howard's boast of fall in crime `will be a sham' says auth

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The Independent Online
THE Home Office this week will announce the biggest drop in crime figures in Britain since the war. Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, will almost certainly trumpet the statistics from the platform at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool early next month. He will tell the assembled Tory faithful and the nation that, thanks to new, targeted policing methods, Government crime initiatives, and rigorous penal policies, reported crimes have fallen nationally by at least 3 per cent.

The Home Office has engineered a string of stories in favourable media over the past month to warm up the audience for Mr Howard's conference- platform performance.

But the claimed reduction in crimes is a sham, according to a leading criminologist.

Rather than crime falling, he says, it is increasing in proportion to the population - as a direct result of Government policy.

Oliver James, a clinical psychologist and author of Juvenile Violence in a Winner-Loser Culture, says the statistics are being used to mask an embarrassing reality. "The Tory press conspires with the Home Office to ignore the rise in violence since 1987," he says. "What they do not say is that all the fall in crime is due to less crime being committed by 10- to 20-year-olds. Crime by the over-21s has not decreased at all. The proportion of the 10- to 20-year-old population has actually dropped by 17per cent.

"Since 1992 the falls have been greatest in car crime, burglary, arson, vandalism, robbery and theft. They are youth crimes and so appear to have dropped. But there hasn't been any fall - it is just that there are fewer people of that age around to commit these crimes."

Mr James says violent crime has not dropped among juveniles and older people since 1987. The rate of increase has risen threefold. Between 1987 and 1994 it rose by 12,000 crimes a year.

"This is a big headache for the Government. They can't explain it. I say it is because of inequality. The link between societies with great inequality and great violence is well established in Britain."

In 1979, 19 per cent of boys were raised in low-income homes. Since 1981 the proportion has been 30 per cent.

The Home Office will not discuss the statistics, refusing even to confirm officially that they are to be released on Wednesday.

Like Robert Reiner of the London School of Economics, Mr James says the reported crime statistics are themselves misleading since they are based on convictions and cautions, representing only a quarter of all recorded offences, and not all crime is reported anyway.