Violent crime puts Britons in fear of dark

Robbery, assault and burglary rates highest in Europe and even top US
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Rates of violent crime, burglary and car theft are higher in England and Wales than in any other European country or the United States, according to a survey published yesterday.

Residents of England and Wales are also more frightened of being outside alone after dark than those of any other of the 11 countries studied.

The international survey of 19,000 questioned in 1995 reveals a depressing picture of extremely high crime rates and fearfulness among the population of England and Wales, even when compared with the United States, which is traditionally considered a very dangerous place. Northern Ireland appears to be extremely safe and Scotland about average.

One in three people in England and Wales said they had been a victim of crime - joint highest with The Netherlands.

The International Crime Victimisation Survey - in which between 1,000 and 2,000 adults were interviewed from a range of European countries, including France, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and Austria, as well as Canada and the US - provides a unique snapshot of world crime trends.

Most international comparisons are based on police or government statistics, which are usually collected using different methods and are underestimates of the true levels of crime. But the joint Home Office-funded study uses standardised questions and there- fore provides a more accurate picture.

With crimes involving robbery, assault and sexual assault, the highest risks were in England and Wales. Northern Ireland had the lowest.

On the number of people having their cars stolen, England and Wales came top, with 3 per cent. It was also highest for thefts from cars, with about one in ten people suffering a break in. Scotland was second highest in both categories.

When examining comparative risks in terms of the number of crimes experienced per citizen, England and Wales came second, behind The Netherlands, with 61 offences per 100 people.

However, because people are often victimised more than once, the proportion of people in England and Wales who suffered a crime against them was 31 per cent - the joint highest. Northern Ireland was lowest, with 17 per cent; the US was on 24 per cent and Scotland 26 per cent.

England and Wales has slipped to having the highest rate, from being sixth out of 15 countries in a 1989 survey.

More victims in Sweden reported to the police than elsewhere, but Britain also had a high rate. About 75 per cent of people in the United Kingdom were satisfied with how the police reacted. When asked how safe they felt walking alone in the dark, people in England and Wales were most concerned. Residents in Scotland, Canada, and the US were also highly concerned.

On attitudes towards imprisonment, support for jailing people was greatest in the US, with 56 per cent, followed closely by the UK, with about half the people questioned supporting incarceration for a repeat burglar aged 21.

8 The International Crime Victimisation Survey is available from Information and Publications Group: 0171-273 2084.