Recession leads to crime and robbery increases

Published: 17th March 2009
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Recession crime wave hits rural Britain

A recession crime wave has hit rural areas with levels of robbery surging by almost 20 per cent.

Figures published today in The Daily Telegraph provide the first evidence of a feared rise in violent thefts on the streets, despite Government reassurances that plans are in place to prevent crime and disorder driven by the economic downturn.

Almost two-thirds of the police forces surveyed in England and Wales showed a rise in robberies in the past three months, compared to the same period in the previous year.

The impact has been most acute in rural areas, where there has been a 17.5 per cent rise in violent thefts.

Robbery rates had decreased in 2008 to the lowest levels in six years and the sudden rise will be a serious concern.

The worst hit county, Cambridgeshire, also showed an 88 per cent rise in violent assaults and a 51 per cent increase in burglary from December to March.

The countryside has already been badly affected by the recession. Last week it was disclosed that there are more people chasing each job in rural areas than in "major urban unemployment blackspots", according to a report by the Commission for Rural Communities.

Stuart Burgess, the head of the commission, said that the recession was taking a stronger grip on rural areas, such as North Yorkshire and Cornwall, and predicted a bleak outlook for the next six months.

David Ruffley, the shadow police minister, said: "It is very worrying that more robberies are taking place as the economy goes deeper into recession.

"More robbery on the street means that it is vital we get more police back on the beat.

"This will be critically important if we are to deliver the deterrent and detection of frightening street crime like robbery."

Fears that the downturn would lead to more crime, especially offences of stealing, were exposed last year in a leaked memo to Gordon Brown.

City of London police revealed that reported fraud rose by 62 per cent in February compared to the year before, and the latest Home Office figures revealed a four per cent increase in burglaries.

The Daily Telegraph asked all 43 police forces in England and Wales to provide figures for robbery. Of the 32 that replied, 19 forces saw a rise. Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Durham, Dyfed Powys, North Wales, Cumbria and West Mercia all showed significant increases.

They are among the 13 forces categorised as "rural" by the Home Office, in which there was a rise in robbery offences from 1064 to 1250 over the three-month Christmas period, compared year-on-year.

The total number of robberies across the 32 forces increased by seven per cent from 4,216 to 4,512.

Those figures exclude the Metropolitan police area, where almost half of all robberies are recorded, thus distorting the overall data. The force has bucked the trend, with robbery down by almost five per cent. However, domestic crime is up by five per cent and race crimes increased by 100 offences in February compared to the same month last year - a jump of 17 per cent.

The figures for robbery cover a wide variety of offences including bank raids, mobile phone and street robbery.

Last year research found that motorists who live in villages are most likely to be victims of vehicle theft and car crime.

A study by price comparison website analysed data from 10million insurance quotes.

It found that the worst areas for car theft - theft from the vehicle or of the vehicle itself - were not urban areas but Winchelsea, East Sussex, Saltburn-by-the-sea in Cleveland and Godstone, Surrey.

A spokesman for the Commission for Rural Communities said: "A lower incidence of crime is one of the reasons people choose to live in the countryside. Any rise in crime in rural communities, because of the economic downturn, would be very concerning for rural residents, and for rural businesses already facing tough times in the recession."

Barry Stevenson, Managing Director of The Safe and Secure, a leading retailer of safety and security equipment in the UK said "We can tell from customer spending patterns and calls to our team that people are becoming increasingly concerned about crime and taking simple and cost effective steps to ensure they are not one of the next victims"

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