Violent Crime is higher In the UK than the USA
by Michael Clarke
The international crime report was published as Tony Blair prepared to unveil plans to tackle persistent offenders.
The Prime Minister – who will next week become the first serving premier to visit a British prison when he launches his law-and-order package – said the crackdown would target the 100,000 worst offenders who are responsible for the bulk of crimes.
He is to announce a £700million programme – described by senior government sources as ‘very radical’ – in a bid to win back the initiative in the law and order debate in the runup to the general election expected in May.
According to the figures released yesterday, 3.6 per cent of the population of England and Wales were victims of violent crime in 1999 – second only to Australia, where the figure was 4.1 per cent.
Scotland had a slightly lower rate of violence, at 3.4 per cent.
In the U.S., only 2 per cent of the population suffered an assault or robbery.
One in 40 people in England and Wales had their cars stolen in 1999, the highest rate in the 17 developed countries examined.
Just one in 200 Americans suffered a car theft while in Japan there was only one per 1,000 of the population.
The study looked at crime rates in 12 western European countries plus Poland, Canada, the U.S., Australia and Japan.
The chances of becoming a victim of any crime in England and Wales were second only to Australia.
Here, 26 per cent suffered from crime against an average across all the countries of just 21 per cent.
England and Wales are among the countries ‘most pressured by crime’, the report concludes.
The two countries had the equal highest number of crimes per head of population of all 17 states.
There were 58 incidents for every 100 inhabitants in England and Wales – the same as Australia.
The study said the size of the sample meant first place in many categories came down to statistical accident, suggesting that for many areas of crime Britain may actually be worst in the world.
Its authors insisted the general rankings accurately reflect the real situation.
Home Secretary Jack Straw admitted the survey painted a bleak picture for Britain.
He said that after four years in power, Labour still had a mountain to climb to defeat crime. He added: ‘Levels of victimisation are higher here than in most comparable countries for most categories of crime.
‘So, while I pay tribute to the police, councils and communities for their hard work in reducing crime over recent years, no one should be under any illusions about the challenges ahead.
‘Crime may be falling but it is still too high, and we have a great deal more to do to make Britain a safer place in which to live.’
Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said: ‘It’s no wonder the people of England and Wales have more chance of becoming victims of crime when there are over 2,500 fewer police, violent crime is soaring and 30,000 convicted prisoners have been let out before serving even half their sentences.
‘Four years after the last election it is clear Labour have failed to be tough on crime as they promised they would be.’
Experts said one reason Britain had higher crime rates was because it had a higher population density.
More people living in cities – and more people living alone – gave greater opportunities for crimes like burglary, said Professor Michael Hough of South Bank University.
He said the apparently high crime rate in Australia could be due to a growing drug problem in Sydney, which is home to a fifth of the country’s 19million population.
But the latest research is a big embarrassment to Labour.
Recent statistics show that, while overall crime in Britain is falling, violence, particularly street robbery, is rising sharply.
One of Labour‘s key election slogans during its 1997 election triumph was ‘Tough on Crime, Tough on the Causes of Crime‘.