Committee of Public Accounts

Press Notice No. 23 of Session 2004-05, dated 21 June 2005


Mr Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts in the previous Parliament, said today:

"The dreadful effect of crime and the fear of crime on communities and individuals means that successful initiatives which my Committee heard about, such as one that reduced local burglary by 50%, are truly inspiring. We want more of this. But this means measuring what works and, where possible, making sure that it is replicated across the country. It means exploring radical initiatives like New York's zero tolerance of low level crime. It means freeing Partnerships from the excessive bureaucratic burden which has weighed on them in the past. Just as important is ensuring that more police time is spent on tackling crime and less on pushing paper."

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 23rd Report of the 2004-05 Session, which examined Home Office supported initiatives to reduce crime.

The Committee found that these initiatives have contributed to reductions in crime, but that it is not clear by how much.

Crime blights people's lives, with victims and witnesses suffering financial and emotional loss. The fear of crime also makes people feel unsafe, particularly after dark. Overall trends in crime are falling with an estimated 11.7 million crimes committed according to the British Crime Survey for 2003-04, representing a reduction of 7% on 2001-02 data, and a 39% reduction since 1995. Over 5.9 million crimes were recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2003-04, equivalent to 113 crimes per 1000 people. 78% of recorded crime was property related (burglary, theft from a vehicle, etc) and 19% was violent crime (including murder, assault and robbery). The remaining 3% related to drug offences, public order offences, etc.

The Home Office aims to reduce crime by supporting Police Basic Command Units, as well as the 354 Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships in England and 22 Community Safety Partnerships in Wales (Figure 1). The department has provided grants of £926.8 million since 1999 to fund crime reduction initiatives. The projects include initiatives which focus on potential and known offenders, specific locations and the victims of crime.

Crime and disorder reduction initiatives have contributed to the reductions in crime measured by the British Crime Survey, although it is not clear how much of a difference they have made. The Home Office has not systematically evaluated whether projects have demonstrated a measurable reduction in crime. Some projects have not been sufficiently targeted to achieve a quantifiable reduction in crime, and others have been too small to make any material difference. Generally there is scope for local projects to capitalise on best practice already established elsewhere rather than starting every initiative from scratch. Some projects have, however, been used by the Home Office to develop national strategies to tackle specific types of offenders. The Prolific and other Priority Offenders Strategy draws, for example, on a local initiative developed in Blackpool.

Partnerships could make a greater contribution if less of their resources were tied up with administration. The Home Office should reduce the number of Partnerships, simplify the funding stream and encourage more effective working between partnerships and others involved in tackling crime.

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