Fear of crime 'keeping people out of parks'

People were staying off the streets and away from public parks because of fear of crime and young thugs, a minister told MPs yesterday.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Planning minister, said parks were often so dirty and unsafe that many people were reluctant to use them. He said the police should work with Whitehall departments and the police to try to boost the public's confidence in public spaces

"Our streets and public spaces are something we all experience, every day on our way to work, school or the shops. If it is dirty and feels unsafe, then people's quality of life is severely affected," he said in evidence to an inquiry by the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Select Committee.

He said that thuggish behaviour and street crime meant that people felt vulnerable to mugging or harassment in many public spaces. "In terms of public safety, one of the reasons why streets or parks are less used than they should be is because of people's fear of crime and anti-social behaviour," he said.

Lord Falconer, one of the Prime Minister's closest political allies, claimed more CCTV cameras and better street lighting "will make people feel safe".

"There needs to be a co- ordinated response to try and reduce that unsatisfactory aspect of the streets and that requires co-ordinated activity between the Home Office, the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, local authorities and the police," he said.

The Labour MP Christine Russell said design black spots made street crime worse. She asked whether police chiefs could link up with local planning departments to ensure housing was not designed in a way that encouraged crime. "So many problems are created by muggers and back alleys," she said.