Blair vows to crack down on criminals

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair told police yesterday that he would consider giving them more powers, including the ability to tap teenage troublemakers' phones.

Mr Blair, who vowed to crack down on 5,000 criminals responsible for one million offences a year, said police would be encouraged to take part in "intrusive surveillance" of sus- pects, including the use of closed circuit television.

"A hard core of prolific offenders, just 5,000 people, commit around one million crimes each year, nearly 10 per cent of all crime," he told a conference in London. "They are wreaking havoc. The loss is estimated to be at least £2bn a year."

The Prime Minister said the Metropolitan Police had suggested that powers to tap phone calls of known offenders did not go far enough. Phones can only be tapped if an suspect is over 21 and likely to commit an offence likely to attract a sentence of at least three years.

"We will review this situation with them, and if necessary legislate to give police the powers they need," Mr Blair said. "Equally, we will ensure that once caught and convicted, these offenders face appropriate sentences through new sentencing guidelines."

Addressing the Local Government Association and Home Office conference, Mr Blair said that each of 376 "crime and disorder partnerships" in England and Wales would be asked to identify 15 to 20 "prolific offenders" for surveillance by this summer, using criminal records and probation reports.

He said: "This hard-core of offenders may include local gang dealers, drug dealers, vandals, car thieves and others whose prolific anti-social behaviour is causing most harm.

"We are determined to tackle this small group of offenders who do so much harm. And if we have to give new powers to the police, we will."