§ Lord Tebbit
asked Her Majesty's Government;
To what they attribute the recent rise in crimes of violence; and which sections of the population are the principal victims of violent crime. [HL734]
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
The British Crime Survey, which is widely accepted as the most authoritative source of information on the real rates of crime, indicates that violent crime has been falling since 1995, and reduced by 4 per cent between 1997 and 1999, the latest date for which figures are available. It is none the less true that there has been an increase in the number of violent crimes recorded by the police.
The increase in recorded crime figures in recent years may be due, at least in part, to the fact that additional assault offences were introduced into the recorded crime series in April 1998 and racially aggravated harassment in September 1998. Within violent crime, the change in counting rules impacted most on violence against the person, which now includes common assault and assault on a constable. The numbers of recorded crimes in this category were inflated nationally by the change in counting rules by 118 per cent.
Another reason for the increase may be the determined effort to encourage more reporting of racial harassment, homophobic offences and domestic violence. We would expect the recorded figures to rise in these categories as people become less tolerant of these types of violence, and of assaults arising from fights between acquaintances, and therefore more willing to report incidents.
The reasons for the recent rise in robbery are complex. The 2000 British Crime Survey suggests that risks for younger people may be increasing. According to evidence from police forces, the number of younger offenders and victims has increased. There is also some evidence to suggest that mobile phone theft may account for some of the increase.
Figures from the 2000 British Crime Survey show that the risk of being a victim of violent crime is greatest for men aged between 16–24. Young women are also more at risk of experiencing violence than are older women. Risk decreases sharply for the older population. Personal characteristics influence risk, with the following groups being at higher risk: unemployed adults, single adults, single parents, separated adults and those who go to the pub more than three times a week.101WA
The type and location of the household are also factors that influence risk of violent crime. Risks are high where the home is rented privately and in areas of high physical disorder. Risks of violent crime in rural areas are only half the level of those in inner cities and other areas.
Drawing on the British Crime Survey, it is also possible to identify which occupations may be most at risk of experiencing violence at work. Those most at risk are the police, social workers, probation officers, publicans and bar staff, security guards, nurses and other health care professionals, transport workers, especialy taxi drivers, welfare, community and youth workers, teachers, managers/proprietors in retail sales and national and local government administrators. Victims of violence at work also have a high risk of being victimised again.