Economy's impact on crime 'under review'

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Indy Politics
SENIOR civil servants are considering whether the Government's austerity measures will worsen the crime rate and contribute to further urban unrest, Whitehall sources said yesterday.

Officials are preparing advice for ministers on the possible effect on public order of cost-cutting in the social security benefits system and reduction of services in the inner cities.

A Home Office spokesman categorically denied that any calculations were being made on the likely consequences for crime of the Government's economic policy.

But civil service sources were equally adamant that the estimates were being drawn up. The main concern was whether reductions in benefit and loss of services would lead to a rise in burglaries and other crimes against property, they said.

Subsidiary issues were whether there would be more inner city riots and whether the Government's policy of holding down civil service pay would lead to public sector strikes. In all three cases mandarins were asking whether the police, who received a large pay rise this year, would be able to cope.

The Home Office has publicly stated that it sees a link between recession and short-term rises in the crime rate.

A departmental research document published last year said that there was a statistical relationship between rises in property crime and economic hard times.

The number of burglaries grew rapidly during the recession of the early 1980s, the researchers found. It fell during the Lawson boom of 1987 and 1988 - only to pick up again when Britain entered the present depression in 1990. By contrast, crimes of sex and violence tend to fall during a recession, the Home Office added, because there were fewer people in the pubs with money to spend on drink.

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