Table shows extent of falling crime rate

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The Government today published a league table showing wide variations in crime reduction performances for England and Wales.

The Government today published a league table showing wide variations in crime reduction performances for England and Wales.

The Prime Minister was visiting Kent, which has seen a 32% fall in crime in the past five years and is viewed as a success story by the Government.

His visit comes as figures for England and Wales for the same five-year period show a gap of 36% in achievement in crime reduction between the best and worst police forces.

In Northumbria, judged to have performed the best in the Home Office league table, recorded crime fell by 37% between 1993-94 and 1998-99, followed by Durham at 34%.

This compared with a 1% reduction in Sussex, the worst performing police force for crime reduction over the same period.

Overall crime fell by 19% across all 43 forces over the last five years under the old system of counting recorded crime.

Mr Blair was today due to praise the record of the police force in crime reduction.

He was saying: "These figures show what a tremendous job the police and others have done in recent years but we all need to re-double our efforts, we can do this by sharing best practice - if we know something works let's all do it. But we can also use our imagination in cutting crime - let's be creative."

Mr Blair will encourage forces and local authorities to follow Kent's innovation and get young people on the New Deal scheme to join the fight against crime by fitting locks and bolts to people's homes.

Mr Blair added: "Young people are usually seen as the cause of crime. I want them to become part of the solution - let's have an army of young people on the New Deal making homes safe right across the country."

He will also say he wants the DNA revolution in crime fighting to continue. Until now most forces have taken samples from limited categories of people arrested.

In Kent, for example, samples are taken just from those arrested for violent crimes, burglary or sex offences.

From this month the Metropolitan police have begun to take samples from anyone arrested for an offence which carries a prison term - including drink-drivers and shoplifters.

Mr Blair will say: "I want to see all police forces following the Met's example. Our £34 million investment in the national DNA database will help them to do this.

"More testing will help solve more crimes and catch more criminals and not just murders and sexual offences. It will help in our fight to cut the crimes which affect most people - like burglary and car crime.

"A single hair left in a stolen car is enough to identify the thief. Last year 14,000 similar matches were made."

Today Home Secretary Jack Straw was asked about Government plans to extend the taking of DNA samples to anyone arrested for a crime that can carry a prison sentence

Mr Straw said: "Yes, and that's very important indeed because what we now know is that relatively small investment in DNA, ensuring that you have a DNA base of all suspects and of DNA found at crime scenes, that you get a pretty high match between those two.

"It's a very good way of identifying people, for example, committing serial burglaries as well as those committing what are regarded as the more serious crimes.

"So we are investing £34 million of new money in that over the next three years as well as the additional money I announced three months ago - for example in respect of the 5,000 additional police officers on top of those already due to be recruited."

Mr Straw said the Government was not planning to change the law which prevents DNA records being kept in the event that a suspect is not charged or convicted.

"If we have a full record of everybody who has been convicted of crimes ... then we will have about 3.5-4 million people on that database, and I'm very sorry to say that a very high proportion of people who will commit crimes in the future are people who have committed crimes in the past, so you build up a very accurate base," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.