Drugs trade blamed for crime rise


Frightening new evidence of the dramatic rise in street crime emerged yesterday.

Offences in some parts of London have risen by nearly 70 per cent in less than a year, according to police statistics obtained by the Daily Mail.

The sharp increase, much of it caused by young offenders addicted to drugs such as heroin and cocaine, has coincided with a substantial fall in the number of suspects searched.

The 'stop and search' technique has been a key weapon in the fight against muggings, assaults and violent disorder.

But it has been used less and less since the Macpherson report three years ago into police handling of the murder of Stephen Lawrence which accused Scotland Yard of being 'institutionally racist'.

A policemen's leader said yesterday that fear of being branded racist has left rank and file officers reluctant to search young men from ethnic minorities, who have been blamed for much of the street crimewave.

Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation which represents rank and file officers, added: 'The reality is that police officers have not yet regained the confidence to exercise one of the few weapons that can be deployed against those determined to commit street crime.

'To achieve this, we need the support of the courts, politicians, opinion formers and, last but not least, senior officers.'

Each of the capital's 32 boroughs recorded increases in street crime since last April, ranging from 69 per cent in Greenwich, South London, to 13.7 per cent in Islington, North London.

Of these, 28 had reported reductions in stop and searches of people from ethnic minorities. Gun-related violence, a separate category to street crime, has increased even more alarmingly in some areas.

It soared by 155 per cent in Waltham Forest, North-East London, and by 107 per cent in Barking and Dagenham, East London. It was up by 98 per cent in the South London borough of Southwark.

Following the disturbing trend, highlighted by recent shootings and carjackings, Scotland Yard said yesterday that 50 extra police officers will tackle gun crime in London.

A huge rise in mobile phone robberies has contributed to the surge in street crime, revealed in the Scotland Yard report, Borough Performance Headlines, dated December 2001. Such thefts now account for more than half the street crime in London.

Affluent boroughs did not escape large increases. Street crime rose by more than 50 per cent in both Wandsworth and Merton in South-West London, as well as Bromley, Harrow and Sutton.

Mr Smyth said: 'I am concerned that London is becoming one of the crime capitals of the world. If our residents don't feel safe, how will our visitors?'

Writing about the crime wave in the Daily Mail last week, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens warned of the 'arrogant, abusive, violent but often smart and highly manipulative young thugs' responsible.

He added that 'these young criminals are disproportionately from ethnic minorities'.

The Metropolitan Police yesterday launched a scheme to mark thousands of mobile phones with ultraviolet pens, making them instantly identifiable if they are stolen and later recovered.

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