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Labour renews call for local crime plans

LABOUR yesterday renewed its demand for local authorities and the police to be given a clear statutory responsibility for developing community crime prevention programmes.

The call came as Alun Michael, the party's home affairs spokesman, accused the Prime Minister of attempted theft in adopting Labour's rhetoric of 'partnerships' against crime in his 'anti- yob' speech.

What the Government needed to do now, Mr Michael said, was 'to steal the reality', which he said would provide the powers that councils and the police needed to make the proposed partnerships work.

Publishing Partners Against Crime, which details schemes from co-operative community policing to closed-circuit television surveillance and greater support for victims of crime, Mr Michael said prevention was vital.

Only 1 in 50 crimes resulted in a conviction, he said, and only 1 in 750 in a prison sentence. It was therefore vital to reduce the mass of offending.

In addition, crime is 'overwhelmingly local in nature'. It therefore had to be tackled locally, whereas the thrust of the Government's recent legislation was to centralise control over policing. That, he said, was 'taking us entirely in the wrong direction'.

Labour had repeatedly supported proposals from the Home Office's Morgan report on crime prevention for a statutorily backed community crime-reduction strategy, Mr Michael said. 'On each occasion, John Major and Michael Howard (the Home Secretary) have voted against precisely the principle they now claim to support,' he added.

Frank Dobson, Labour's acting campaigns co-ordinator, said: 'The Government has been very good at condemning crime. They have been very poor at combating crime.'

Household contents and motor insurance premiums had both risen by 50 per cent between 1988 and 1992, while crime was estimated to cost retailers pounds 2bn this year.