§ Baroness Phillips asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ What new action is being taken to reduce crime.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, this week, we are holding the first ever national Crime Prevention Week, which will encourage the public to play a full part in crime prevention. We have launched the car theft index which shows car buyers, owners and manufacturers which cars are most subject to crime. The safer cities programme will be brought up to its full complement of 20 projects when four more come into operation later this year.
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I have taken an active part in the Crime Prevention Week. What resources will be put into the various projects that are being set up —for example, the neighbourhood watch schemes and the business schemes? I understand that the advertising for the campaign has cost about £4 million so far. What extra resources will be devoted to employing more police?
My Lords, £4.5 million has been spent on Crime Prevention Week, of which £3.5 million is expenditure. The safer cities programme (which will be brought up to its full complement of 20 projects later this year) contains 1,300 schemes. That programme is supported by £7 million of Home Office money. Expenditure on the police has increased enormously by 67 per cent. in real terms over the past 12 years. Grants are available to local authorities for crime prevention work. Those grants total £17 million. A lot of money is being spent on crime prevention.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, is the Criminal Justice Bill, which is now under consideration by your Lordships, intended to play a part in crime prevention, or not?
My Lords, that is a curious question from my noble friend. He knows full well that the Criminal Justice Bill deals on the whole with people who have offended. The whole basis of our approach to crime is that it is important for everyone to take part in crime prevention measures. Crime prevention cannot be left only to the police. It requires the co-operation of families, churches, schools, local authorities and voluntary organisations. The whole framework of the criminal justice system—that is a part of the Criminal Justice Bill—is designed not only to keep people out of prison where they may learn the tricks of the trade but also to deal correctly with those who have offended.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I fully support the campaign to install more car alarms and also more alarms in houses. I speak as one who has been burgled twice in the past six months and who only last weekend lost the wheel covers of my car. However, what concerns me is that one can walk down almost any street in London and hear alarms ringing but no one takes a blind bit of notice. Therefore, I am not sure there is much point in encouraging people to install alarms unless something is going to be done as regards following up alarm signals.
My Lords, I suppose that when alarms go off people tend to think they have gone off in error. However, it is important that people take preventive action against potential car thieves. Some 94 per cent. of all crimes are crimes against property. Of that figure, 27 per cent. are crimes against cars. That means either theft of cars or theft from cars. The latest British crime survey showed that 10 per cent. of those interviewed who had had cars stolen admitted they had not locked their cars. Similarly, a survey conducted by the Metropolitan Police revealed that 26 per cent. of domestic burglaries involved no forced entry. While we expect the police to do a lot in this area, individuals have the right and the duty to protect their own property as best they can.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, how does my noble friend reconcile that reply and the reply which he gave to my noble friend Lord Renton with Clause 23 of the Criminal Justice Bill?
My Lords, we were discussing that fascinating Bill until about 11 o'clock last night. Although Clause 23 of the Bill was firmly imprinted on my mind right through the evening, I have momentarily forgotten what that clause is about.
§ Lord John-Mackie
My Lords, is there any relationship between the increase in crime and the increase in unemployment?
My Lords, a short while ago some research was carried out by Dr. Simon Field, a Home Office researcher. The research indicated that crimes against property decrease and violent crime increases when personal consumption is falling. That provides some useful insights. However, in general, if the expectations of the potential offender for increased income and consumption are suddenly halted, he is more likely to resort to crime to meet his expectations.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I am glad to see that the noble Earl is in such good form this morning after such a late night. Can he say whether it is the Government's policy to see that more policemen are put back on the beat? If that is the Government's policy, what are they doing about it?
My Lords, the first thing they are doing is providing another 1,100 policemen this year. The noble Lord referred to policemen on the beat, and that is important. When somebody calls the police to a murder, theft or burglary they do not get the policeman on the beat. It is important to have someone available to deal with trouble as it occurs. It 1657 is very much a matter for chief constables. That is why over the years we have encouraged civilianisation to the extent that between 1978–79 and 1990–91 the number of civilians has risen from 34,000 to 45,000, an increase of 33 per cent. That helps to put policemen on the beat.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, of course I understand that whether or not policemen should be put on the beat is a matter for chief constables to decide. However, is it the Government's policy to encourage chief constables to take decisions in relation to their manning policies which will put policemen on the beat and make them more visible both to the general public and to potential criminals?
My Lords, it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to encourage chief constables to use their resources in the best possible way to ensure that crime is dealt with. That inevitably means some people on the beat, some doing crime prevention work —and a lot of that is being done—and some manning the shop.
§ Lord Northfield
My Lords, following that question can the noble Earl say what is the situation regarding muggings in London? As I live quite near to my noble friend Lord Mulley I am alarmed to hear that he has been burgled twice in the past six months. I am beginning to shake a bit. The neighbourhood watch is doing a great deal to prevent burglaries in our area but muggings seem to be taking place just the same. What can be done and what is being done to reduce that danger in central London?
My Lords, I forgot to express my sorrow to the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, that he had been burgled twice. I hope that it will not happen again. I do not believe that that piece of information need lead the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, to think that he was therefore going to be mugged. I do not believe that there is too much correlation between the two.
Six per cent. of all crime is violent crime. That percentage has remained astonishingly constant throughout the years. The best way one can hope to avoid muggings is for people to avoid carrying things with them where they are likely to be mugged and, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, for there to be plenty of policemen on the beat.
§ Lord Peston
My Lords, I am slightly puzzled by the noble Earl's intriguing remarks about the relationship between the economy and crime. Did I understand him to say that the scale of crime did not vary with the state of the economy but that the nature of the crime did? I thought I heard him say that when we went into a recession crimes of violence increased —did I get that the right way round?—and that as consumption fell there would be more crimes of violence rather than fewer.
My Lords, it was not my intriguing answer; it was the intriguing result of research work carried out by a certain Dr. Simon Field. The results of his study indicated that property crime comes down 1658 and violent crime goes up when personal consumption falls. That is not quite the same as the question which the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, asked, which was whether in a recession people resort more to crime. I do not believe that there is any such evidence.
§ Lord Peston
My Lords, since personal consumption falls in a recession and is falling at this very moment, the worrying aspect that seems to follow from the research, if we can take the research seriously, is that we should be predicting that crimes of violence will begin to rise. That is why I asked for clarification.
My Lords, it is dangerous to get into the area of speculation. It is obviously a matter of concern and the research was undertaken to establish whether there was a correlation between what people have, what they expect and crime. The sad fact is that for one reason or another crime continues to rise. It is important that all those who are involved with children—and one has to remember that children play a large part in the business of crime—must make every effort to bring those children up correctly. That refers to their homes and schools and also to voluntary organisations, because the majority of crime is committed by people who are between the ages of 15 and 18.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that there is nothing more shattering than to arrive home to find one's home has been totally ransacked and furniture smashed and broken? I have been through that three times in three years. One calls the police. They ask what is missing and one gives a fairly comprehensive list there and then. However, when it is necessary to ask the police for their assistance regarding the items that were taken —which were notified to them verbally—they do not even know what was taken. What is more disturbing, they do not even know the date when the break-in took place. Can that position be corrected?
My Lords, I am sorry to hear that the noble Lord has also been burgled. This is becoming a rather unsatisfactory Question Time and I am apprehensive in case any other noble Lord asking a question should declare an unhappy interest. I cannot tell the noble Lord the answer to his question. We accept that for anyone who has been burgled it is a very upsetting experience and they expect the police to be there and to help as much as they can. The police have to work to an order of priorities and they do the best they can.
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, can the Minister ensure that in crime prevention propaganda aimed at engaging the general population the message is not put in such a way that the victim is apparently blamed for the crime?
My Lords, the victim should certainly not be blamed for the crime. It is no part of the Government's exercise to blame the victim for the crime. The blame rests entirely with the perpetrators, and it is the community as a whole—individuals and organisations—which can help to beat crime. It is an 1659 interesting fact that one in three people has a criminal conviction for an indictable offence by the age of 25. That is a terrible figure. That must depend a great deal on the way in which those people are brought up.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, is that one in three people or one in three males? I understand that the conviction rate for females is very much lower.
My Lords, the expression used with regard to government Bills is that the male embraces the female. I believe that the noble Baroness is correct in thinking that this statistic refers to males only.