Straw to target muggings and drunken brawls as crime rate rises

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Street muggings and alcohol-fuelled violence are to be targeted by the Government in an attempt to reverse the rising crime rate.

Street muggings and alcohol-fuelled violence are to be targeted by the Government in an attempt to reverse the rising crime rate.

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, has identified street robberies and drunken brawls as two areas of growing lawlessness that need to be combated. The crimes are to be given a greater police priority and tougher licensing laws are being introduced. Among the measures being introduced are a series of intensive police clampdowns aimed at city centre trouble spots.

Ministers have been shocked at the rapid growth in the number of muggings and violent offences. The Government is extremely worried at the prospect of a rapidly rising headline crime rate in the run- up to the general election. Reported crime in England and Wales has risen for the first time in six years. In the year up to September 1999 there were 2.2 per cent more crimes. Robbery offences, which are mostly muggings, rose by 19 per cent to nearly 75,000 and incidents of violence against the person were up by 26,000, or five per cent.

Commenting on the rising national crime trend, Mr Straw said yesterday that it "had been concentrated principally in the Metropolitan police area and one or two other metropolitan areas". He went on: "There's been a rise in street robbery, particularly in London, which concerns me very much and there's been a rise in violence, particularly alcohol-related violence as well, and we are concerned about that and we will be bringing forward plans to deal with both," he told BBC radio's Today programme.

Recent figures from the Metropolitan Police revealed a 12.5 per cent rise in the number of offences in the 12 months up to April. Street muggings rose by 36 per cent from 31,706 to 43,193. Violent crime rose by 19 per cent in the same period, up to nearly 157,000. West Midlands police has also recorded big increases in the past year.

Among the measures to bring down crime rates are an intensive police campaign against street muggings. Suspects will be kept under surveillance and DNA samples will be taken from stolen bags. Police forces and licensing magistrates will also focus on pubs and clubs where violence is commonplace. Drinking establishments will be "named and shamed" and in severe cases closed down. The introduction of licensed door staff and closed circuit television cameras will be encouraged.

Current Home Office proposals for an overhaul of the licensing laws include a 10-year ban from named pubs for "habitual drunkards" and others convicted of violent assaults. The police will be given powers to order the immediate closure of rowdy pubs.

Mr Straw was accused of trying to "hoodwink" the public yesterday as he pledged to introduce tougher prison sentences for persistent reoffenders. The Home Secretary called for greater use of day prisons for habitual criminals. ButTories attacked him for making "empty promises" after it emerged that the review would last 12 months and is unlikely to produce recommendations before the next general election.