Muggings rise by eight per cent

Robberies are up by eight per cent on the past year, fuelled by the increase in young people carrying MP3 player and mobile phones, according to the Home Office.

It said half of recorded robberies in 2005-06 – which rose from 90,747 to 98,204 on the year – were in London, but other areas, such as Bedfordshire, saw their number of muggings rise by up to 28 per cent.

The recorded crime statistics for 2005-06 show drug offences were also up 23 per cent, accounted for by a 36 per cent rise in cannabis possession offences, although the Home Office said this was more from better police action than any major increase in drug use.

Overall, the amount of crime recorded by police across England and Wales fell by one per cent, domestic burglary was down seven per cent, vehicle crime was down three per cent and other thefts fell by two per cent.

Total violent crime increased by two per cent in the 12 months to April – which the Home Office said was driven almost entirely by the increase in robbery – but the most serious of these have fallen by 13 per cent and serious wounding is down four per cent.

Meanwhile, the British crime survey (BCS), which measures people’s perception of crime, finds a 22 per cent increase in robberies. However, it also finds overall crime, violent crime, personal crime and domestic burglary are all stable.

The survey of 45,000 people finds the risk of becoming a victim of crime has fallen from 40 per cent at its peak in 1995 to 23 per cent, the Home Office added.

The figures come as the home secretary is today expected to announce a major overhaul of the criminal justice system, including tougher sentences for the most serious offenders.

John Reid welcomed today’s results, saying the overall picture they presented was “positive”, but he admitted the numbers of violent offences were a cause for concern.

“This is largely driven by a rise in the numbers of young people carrying expensive goods such as mobile phones and MP3 players,” he explained.

“While that is a reason, it is not an excuse. I am determined to reverse the rise in recorded robbery and am already taking action to address it.”

The Home Office was working in 27 of the worst areas, giving police expert advice to help them crack down on street crime, he said. It had also launched public awareness campaigns and was working with industry to ensure stolen phones could not be reused.

However, shadow home secretary David Davis said the increase in robbery and overall violent crime for the seventh year running was “alarming”.

“This is a direct consequence of the government’s failing policy of tying up our police in red tape, instead of putting them on the streets to deter and catch criminals,” he said.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg added: “After ten years of tough talk and confused legislation the government still has no idea how to halt the rise in violent street crime. It’s no wonder that people still feel so unsafe.”