Imbert links rise in crime rate with social deprivation: Final report of the retiring Metropolitan Police Commissioner

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THOSE AT the bottom of society must be 'offered hope' in order to reduce crime and prevent communities from unravelling, Sir Peter Imbert, the retiring Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said yesterday.

Sir Peter's comments, made in the introduction to his fifth and last annual report, represent one of the most direct acknowledgements by a senior police officer that crimes like burglary and car theft are committed for gain because people are living in economically depressed areas.

He said: 'The continuing growth of crime is a fundamental concern which, in part, I attribute, to the marginalisation of some elements in our society. The notion that there is a link between crime and social deprivation is compelling. There is a need to offer hope to those most disadvantaged if we are to see any reduction in crime.'

At a press conference to launch the report, Sir Peter said there was a close correlation between the 'map of crime' and the 'map of deprivation' across London. Crime could not be attributed solely to disadvantage or deprivation, but it was a very important factor 'which we ignore at our peril'.

He refused to be drawn into directly blaming the recession or government policies, instead praising some of the inner-city initiatives. He said it was difficult to estimate whether deprivation in London was worse now than when he took over in 1987.

Sir Peter made it clear that he considered that the most significant change he has achieved has been the introduction of the Plus Programme, designed to reform the culture and attitudes of the police and improve quality of service delivery. 'I firmly believe it is the acceptance of the concept of service delivery over that of rigid enforcement which will have the greatest impact on policing . . .'

The policing of London was an 'enormous and challenging task'. London had 75 per cent of the illicit drugs market in the United Kingdom, 75 per cent of major frauds, more than 50 per cent of all armed robberies and 20 per cent of all murders and rapes. Efforts to tackle north London's burglary rate had reduced the increase to 2 per cent. But Sir Peter said that almost a third of those arrested were already on bail for other offences.

'I believe that if we are to continue with a presumption that a person is entitled to bail in most instances - and I don't argue with that - then it must be recognised that there is a price to pay for this, and that it is not reasonable to hold police totally responsible for the apparent failure to contain such offences.'

Sir Peter said he would like to see action on bail being taken before 1994 when the Government's measure to create a specific crime of offending while on bail is due to be implemented.

Referring to calls for national squads to tackle crime and terrorism, Sir Peter said it was wrong to continue adding on specialised squads, and that a national force was the most likely solution.

Violent crime on London's Underground fell by 26 per cent in the first six months of this year, following extra security measures, figures released yesterday show. But indecent assaults rose by 43 per cent after a special campaign to encourage people to report such incidents. Robberies were down more than 29 per cent; passenger assaults down more than 24 per cent and assaults on police down nearly 42 per cent.