The Government launched the Street Crime Initiative in March 2002 in response to sharp rises in recorded robbery. The initiative focuses on ten police force areas, which together accounted for 83 per cent of recorded robbery in England and Wales in 2001/02.
At national level, the initiative involves a wide range of agencies working in partnership, delivering a programme of practical measures developed through the Crime Reduction Group chaired by the Prime Minister. Mirrored at local level, Government Offices give support to the ‘frontline’ agencies and organisations involved, and provide a link to the Street Crime Action Team at the Home Office.
In the ten Street Crime initiative areas, robbery fell by 17 per centin the first year of the initiative. Of individual force areas, the two with the highest levels of robbery - the Metropolitan Police Service and West Midlands - saw respectively 21 per cent and 23 per cent fewer robberies in 2002/03 than in 2001/02. In Avon and Somerset there was a reduction of 28 per cent and in Thames Valley a reduction of 17 per cent.
Government Offices have also worked to support a Home Office car crime reduction initiative involving local authorities covering the 94 Crime and Disorder Partnerships suffering the highest levels of crime. This initiative targets car crime prevention advice at motorists who are found by local authority parking attendants to have left personal possessions on view.
Car registration numbers are passed to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) who then despatch a car crime prevention leaflet under cover of an explanatory letter.
Business and Retail Crime
Crime is a cause of concern for many businesses. There is not a full picture as in most instances crime reports do not differentiate between whether the victim was an individual or a business. The only separately reported crime against business is theft from shops. In the year ending 31 March 2003, there were 309,619 reported thefts from shops - a 0.9 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.
However, the 2001 British Chambers of Commerce survey estimated the cost of crime to business at £19bn per year, whilst the British Retail Consortium 2002 crime survey estimated the annual cost of retail crime at £2.2bn.
The Home Office Business Crime Team has been established to develop a strategy for working more closely with business to reduce crime. Following a public consultation exercise at the beginning of 2003, a strategy focusing on six key areas is being developed:
- obtaining regular and accurate information on the levels and types of business crime
- developing a central advice/support service for businesses
- improving links between business and existing partnerships
- implementing measures to reduce retail crime
- implementing measures to reduce fraud
- raising business awareness of its capacity and responsibility to reduce crime
As part of the strategy each of the Government Offices now has a Business Crime Reduction Adviser (BCRA) in post. Based locally, the BCRAs will be able to develop a true understanding of the crime problems and issues affecting businesses within their region and ensure that crime reduction initiatives focus on particular local requirements.
The £15m Small Retailers in Deprived Areas project had helped 12,500 small businesses to improve their security by the end of March 2004.
Financial and retail sectors are being encouraged to work towards early implementation of more secure systems to combat fraud – such as 'Chip and PIN' replacing signatures.