Tony Blair, Labour's home affairs spokesman, demanded a national plan for crime prevention in the face of the statistics.
The fastest rises in burglaries - though not the greatest total - are happening in shire counties such as Kent, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and the West Country, rather than in inner-city areas, Mr Blair said.
Last week, John Major pointed to inner-city areas, where the state had intervened most, as having the 'big problem' with vandalism, violent crime and uncared for property, saying 'socialism must face up to its failures'.
Burglaries notified to the police have risen by 163 per cent to 664,000 in the year to June 1992, Mr Blair said. But latest figures show the trend is accelerating. After a three-year fall between 1986 and 1988, burglaries recorded in the current recession have shot up by 52 per cent, he said.
More than pounds 2m a day was paid out by insurers in the first six months of last year, with premiums predicted to rise by 20 per cent a year. The British Crime Survey estimates that fewer than one in two burgarlies are reported, and insurance figures suggest that more than pounds 1bn of property a year is being stolen.
The figures represent 'misery on a grand scale for millions for householders', Mr Blair said. He urged the Government to reverse its rejection of the 1991 Morgan report on crime prevention and give councils a new statutory duty to co-ordinate crime prevention.
Michael Jack, Minister of State at the Home Office, rejected that recommendation in December, saying effective crime prevention did not depend on a new statutory role for councils, and the Government was 'mindful of not adding new burdens to local authorities'.
Mr Blair, however, said councils had the links to bring together the police, local businesses, schools and householders to tackle crime. Action would vary from better street lighting to structural change on housing estates, concierge schemes, more foot patrols or concerted action against local spates of burglaries. Schemes such as the Metropolitan Police's Operation Bumblebee campaign against burglary had shown they could work.
While this was 'no panacea', it was 'better than doing nothing'. He accused the Government of 'giving up on crime'.
An 'arbitrary freeze' had been placed on police numbers in the face of a 50 per cent burglary rise since 1989 - 'an epidemic in anybody's language'. Mr Blair was careful not to blame the rise directly on the recession, saying there was no excuse whatever for crime. 'But it has to be said there seems to be more than a passing resemblance between the graph of economic problems and the graph of rising crime.'
The breakdown in law and order had not been confined to the inner cities, he said. 'If you go into many towns and villages in parts of the country that you will never hear about on the national media you will find on Friday and Saturday nights affrays, disturbances and fights that leave people frightened of going about their business. It is outrageous.'
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