How the war on offenders is being fought

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The Independent Online

Recorded crime

Recorded crime

In the year ending September 1997 there were 4.7m offences recorded by police in England and Wales. This has dropped to about 4.5m using the same counting system.

Under new, more accurate methods of recording brought in by Labour, the total at the year ending in September 2000 was 5.2m. Recorded crime has dropped in three of the four years since Labour came to power.

Despite the success in bringing down the total, which has been largely achieved by reducing the big volume crimes such as car theft and burglaries, the number of violent crimes has continued to rise, reaching 716,000 in the year ending September 2000.

The crime rate in England and Wales remains among the highest in the industrialised world.

Prison populations

The total number of prisoners has risen from 60,335 in May 1997 to a total of 64,488 in February this year, an increase of 5.5 per cent.

The Home secretary, Jack Straw, has already pledged to build new jails to house an extra 2,660 inmates expected to result from longer sentences for persistent offenders.

The number of women prisoners has risen from 2,630 to 3,446 in the same period.

Police numbers

The total number of officers in England and Wales in March 1997 was 127,158. This had dropped to 124,614 by September last year, although the figures are starting to rise again.

Labour has pledged to recruit an extra 9,000 officers. Ambitious targets to recruit more ethnic minorities are failing at present but fresh efforts are being put in, particularly in London.

Fear of crime

The percentage of people questioned in the British Crime Survey who said they "very worried" they will be victims of crime in the coming 12 months has gone down slightly or remained the same during the past few years.

About one fifth of people questioned are "very worried" about being victims of a burglary, car theft, mugging, or robbery.

The Government and the police are trying to improve their quality and quantity of information for the public who continue to overestimate the risk being a victim.

For example, old people worry disproportionately about being attacked, when young men are far more likely to be victims of assaults.

Convictions

The total number of convictions has risen from 318,726 in 1997 to 343,139 in the year ending April 2000.

But conviction rates have halved over the last two decades, from 18 per cent of all recorded crime in 1980 to 9 per cent last year. The Crown Prosecution Service is to employ 700 new staff

Youth crime

Labour has failed to fulfil its 1997 General Election pledge to halve the time it takes to deal with young offenders from the point they are arrested to being sentenced.

But they have made significant inroads in bringing the average time down from 141 days in 1997 to 96 in November 2000.

Jack Straw claims the target of 71 will be reached within the next year. He has proposed to allow courts to sit on an extra 7,000 days every year and to pilot weekend and evening magistrates' courts.

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