Law and Order: Record level of crime, but rise is slower: 5.7 million offences in 12 months to June - Forces not effective enough - Home Secretary gets tougher

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THE NUMBER of crimes rose by almost 4 per cent in the year ending in June, to a record figure of 5.7 million offences, including substantial increases in house burglary and robbery statistics.

Although the Home Office figures issued yesterday indicate a significant slowing down in the rate of increase in crime, 35 out of the 43 forces in England and Wales still showed rises over the previous 12- month period.

The figures show crime continues to rise in rural or suburban areas faster than inner-city areas - London and Merseyside were among the eight areas to record falls or no increases in crime. But the double-figure rises of 1990-92 may be a thing of the past.

The 1992 British Crime Survey - a study of experiences of crime among 10,000 people - also released yesterday says that although recorded crime nearly doubled between 1981 and 1991, the true figure, based on recorded and unreported crime, might be closer to 50 per cent. It says a large number of crimes are not reported.

David Maclean, the Home Office minister, welcomed the slowdown in reported crime. 'The signs are that this trend is continuing,' he said. Mr Maclean conceded that the 'get tough' measures announced by the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, at the Conservative Party conference last month were no guarantee of stopping crime, which had to be tackled at a local level in a partnership between communities and police. 'Crime is a problem in society and it cannot simply be left to the police and the courts.'

Tony Blair, the shadow Home Secretary, accused the Government of lacking a coherent strategy and criticised an admission by Mr Howard in a radio interview yesterday that 'no one knows how to prevent crime'. The Government, said Mr Blair, was systematically dismantling anti-drug and crime prevention initiatives and had failed to implement its own report on crime prevention.

All crime increased by 3.8 per cent up to June compared with the previous 12 months, a total of 208,000 offences. Violent crime rose by 3.8 per cent, which included a 14 per cent increase in robberies. Burglaries, which account for a quarter of all crime, increased by 9 per cent and house burglaries by 12 per cent. Vehicle crime rose by 5 per cent, largely due to a 7 per cent rise in thefts of cars.

The largest increase recorded was in Avon and Somerset, which had a 15 per cent rise. Eight other forces had double-figure increases. The biggest drop was 10 per cent in Dyfed-Powys. Figures for arrest and detection rates were not issued yesterday, but they are believed to have continued to decline.

The British Crime Survey estimates a total of 15 million crimes in England and Wales in 1991 - three times the recorded figure. It suggests that while 99 per cent of car theft and 92 per cent of burglaries (where loss is suffered) are reported to police, only 50 per cent or fewer of many other offences - such as robbery, wounding and thefts - are reported.

More crimes are being reported than when the survey first began in 1982, largely because of wider insurance. But the survey says many go unreported because of public tolerance: 'It cannot be ruled out that as crime rises, respondents may be forgetting to tell interviewers about less serious incidents.'

Other reasons for the shortfall could be because crimes are recorded in different categories.

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