Home Secretary’s Foreword

The government is embarked on a crusade against crime.

Safe and healthy communities need a strong, shared respect for the
proper boundaries of the law and collective condemnation for all those
who break them. Of course we need to understand the complex causes of
crime and, wherever possible, offer a hand to help the offender back
onto the right side. But we should all be clear that criminal behaviour
is wrong.

We must, in other words, be tough on crime and tough on the causes of

Being tough on crime means sending clear signals to criminals that a
return to crime will be met with clear consequences, that the purpose of
our criminal justice system is to catch and punish offenders not to make
excuses for them.

It means tough and consistent prison sentences for serious criminals,
far more rigorous enforcement of community sentences and zero tolerance
of anti-social behaviour. And it means quicker and more effective
punishment for persistent young offenders.

Being tough on the causes of crime means strengthening communities by
getting people off welfare and into work, by improving support for
families and young children, by improving education, housing and action
against truancy. It means proper investment to make our communities
safer, in getting addicts off drugs and into treatment and making prison
work by preventing re-offending and improving the literacy and
employability of prisoners.

There is now less crime and more criminals are brought to justice.
Since April 1997, total recorded crime has fallen by 9%. Vehicle crime
is down 14% and burglary has fallen by 16%, whilst in 1998 the number of
offenders convicted rose by 6%. And, for the first time ever last year�s
British Crime Survey results showed that crime (including incidents not
reported to the police) was on the way down, as was fear of crime.

We must not, however, be complacent.

Though recorded crime has fallen over the last six years, England and
Wales remains the most crime prone area in Western Europe across a wide
range of offences. Crime and the fear of crime can destroy the lives of
innocent victims. But even if we are not directly affected, we all pay
for high levels of crime. Crime can cost the UK economy in the order of
�50 billion a year, reduce business profits, impose huge costs on the
NHS, widen inequalities in wealth and opportunity, and make thousands of
homes uninhabitable.

Patterns of crime change and our attitudes to crime change too. Drug
addiction has become an increasingly powerful driver of property crime,
while new types of consumer products like mobile phones or laptop
computers have increased the stock of stealable goods. The public has
also become, quite rightly, increasingly intolerant of disorder and
anti-social behaviour; while more victims of crimes like domestic
violence or racial crime, are willing to report their experiences to the

In addition to all of this, underlying economic and demographic
pressures, over the next 3 years, mean that we will have to work harder
than ever to reduce the levels of crime. These will be, for example, a
4% increase in young men under 18 – the age group in the population
which we know accounts for a quarter of known offenders. Our greatest
task, therefore, is to turn recent short-term gains into a long-term
reduction in crime.

Over the past two years we have been laying the foundations for the
most co-ordinated and coherent attack on crime in a generation. This
strategy document sets out the next steps in the short to medium term.
It is an audit of where we are now and where we are heading. During the
next Spending Review we will be looking closely at the effectiveness of
existing crime reduction policies and at possible new proposals. We are
committed to using hard evidence as the basis of our approach for
reducing crime. This underpins our �400 million crime reduction

Raising the performance of the key players

At the heart of the strategy are the new steps we will be taking to
ensure that every local crime fighting partnership and police force is
performing to their maximum potential.

Reducing the crime rate in all police areas to the level of the
average would reduce recorded crime by 200,000 offences. We want to aim
higher. That will require:

  • Clear targets for improvement

From April 2000 every police authority and local Crime &
Disorder reduction partnership will have to set five year targets
(and annual milestones) for the reduction of vehicle crime, of
burglary and of robbery. For the police, the targets should at a
minimum bring them level with the performance of the top 25 per cent
of their peers. More importantly they will have to draw up
convincing plans for how they will meet these targets which will be
scrutinised by the Audit Commission and by Her Majesty�s
Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

  • Clear information for the public

From January 2000 we will be publishing crime statistics not just
for police force areas but also for individual police divisions
(basic command units). For the first time the public will have a
clear way of comparing crime in their town with that in other
comparable places and, where they are lagging behind, be able to ask

  • National leadership, support and scrutiny

To bring out the best from local councils and local police forces
we need to provide strong leadership and support at a national
level. That is why we are creating a new, high powered national
Crime Reduction Taskforce bringing together senior figures from the
police service and local government to oversee performance
improvement at local, regional and national level. Alongside this
body, new regional Crime Reduction Directors in every government
region will scrutinise and support the performance of each local
Crime & Disorder reduction partnership.

  • New resources, tools and technology

We have already provided millions of pounds in new resources to
pay for crime reduction projects in high crime areas and
improvements to police effectiveness. Over the coming three years,
we will be providing millions more, including the biggest ever
investment in public CCTV security systems and a new ring-fenced
crime fighting fund part of which will be used to enable forces to
recruit, train and pay 5,000 new officers, over and above the number
that forces would otherwise have recruited, over the next three
years commencing in April 2000.

Tackling those crimes which most concern the public: burglary and
vehicle crime

Government needs new strategies, new solutions, to deal with new
problems. We need to take on those crimes which most concern the public.
This strategy has a particular focus on burglary and on vehicle crime.
If we can make significant progress in reducing these two types of
offence (and this strategy maps out a clear way forward) we will have
taken a very significant step towards making this country a safer place
for all of us.

Funding from our Crime Reduction Programme is already helping to
protect over 200,000 homes in high crime areas from burglary, with 1.8
million more to follow over the next two years. Our Vehicle Crime
Reduction Action Team (VCRAT) has set out a clear route map for
achieving our national target of a 30% reduction in vehicle crime, and
new targeted policing initiatives around the country are starting to
make a reality of our commitment to tackle crimes like drug dealing,
town centre disorder and racial violence.

But there is more to come. Over the next three years we will be
providing up to 150,000 low income pensioners with better home security
and we will be building on our efforts to break the link between drug
misuse and offending – particularly in relation to property crime – by
providing the money for more arrest referral schemes, and by extending
powers to drug test offenders.

Antisocial behaviour

It is not just the more serious recorded crimes which concern the
public. Millions of people also find their quality of life suffering
from vandalism, noisy or intimidating neighbours and out of control

The criminal justice system often fails to deal with these types of
problem. While individual episodes of antisocial behaviour might appear
trivial, its relentless nature may have an even worse impact than a
single, acute episode of crime. And there is now very clear evidence
that a failure to nip disorder and anti-social behaviour in the bud, to
repair vandalised windows or keep truants in school, can lead directly
to more serious offences and higher crime rates, as well as higher fear
of crime.

We have introduced new remedies for the police and local authorities
to tackle serious antisocial behaviour. Coupled with sensible and
sensitive targeted policing and much broader government programmes to
build safe and secure communities we will achieve sustained, not
transient, improvements.

Dealing effectively with those offenders who cause the most harm

Any national strategy to cut crime must also include a commitment to
focus on those types of offenders who we already know account for a
disproportionate amount of offending. That is why this strategy has a
particular focus on young offenders who commit millions of offences a
year and on drug addicted offenders who we know also steal hundreds of
millions of pounds worth of property to fund their habits.

Most adult criminals learn their trade during their adolescence, so
we should be dealing particularly effectively with young criminals. Yet
by the time of the last election, this was not so. Repeat cautioning
encouraged young offenders to believe that they could get away with
their crime without punishment, and even when the system did intervene,
it was slow, inefficient and largely ineffective. If a case got to
court, the young offender would, at best, be a spectator in court –
spoken over, round or about, but rarely spoken to, still less asked to
explain his or her behaviour. At worst, offenders would hear adult
professionals offering excuses for their crimes, buttressing their own
erroneous belief that it was all someone else�s fault.

We have already made major changes to our youth justice system. We
are well on the way to meeting our pledge to halve the time it takes to
deal with young offenders and new punishments like Reparation Orders and
Action Plan Orders, currently being piloted, are already proving popular
with the youth courts.

But again, as this strategy shows, there is more to come. From April
2000, for example every area will have a
dedicated Youth Offender Team. We will also be piloting new Young
Offender Panels to deal with first time offenders pleading guilty in the
youth courts and we will be rolling out our new Detention and Training
Orders. Looking further ahead, the government�s new Sure Start
programme and school truancy and exclusions initiatives should mean a
major reduction in the numbers of younger children going on to become
teenage or adult criminals.

Dealing effectively with adult criminals

The government is committed to putting the public�s protection
first. Just as we must deal effectively with young offenders, so must we
be intolerant of repeat offending and be much tougher in enforcing
community sentences. Already we have ensured that repeat rapists, drug
dealers and burglars all get stiffer sentences. But we must also reduce
the number of offenders in our Criminal Justice System who go on to
commit more crimes. We are therefore investing more on prison regimes to
tackle drug addiction and improve literacy skills and job prospects. We
are also toughening up the rules on enforcement of community sentences.
In parallel we are modernising the criminal justice system, to ensure
that those who do commit crimes are dealt with swiftly and effectively.

Building on these foundations, our new Crime and Public Protection
Bill will extend the use of drug testing to deter drug related offending
by offenders on bail and on community sentences and will enable the use
of new technology to monitor the movements of a wider range of
offenders. It will also restructure the Probation Service into a
centrally driven unified service, aligned to police boundaries and
directly accountable to the Secretary of State.

A fair deal for victims

Putting the public�s protection first also means putting the needs
of victims first. Offenders cannot be brought to justice unless victims
and witnesses report crimes to the police and are willing, if necessary,
to give evidence in court. Yet the criminal justice system has been far
too slow in recognising its responsibilities towards victims and

The needs of victims and witnesses should be at the heart of the
criminal justice system. Funding for Victim Support has now been
substantially increased. Services are being improved for victims and
witnesses in the magistrates� courts. And we have introduced
legislation to protect and support vulnerable victims and witnesses,
including those in rape or serious sexual offence cases.


Crime undermines basic freedoms, particularly the freedom to live one�s
life free from fear and intimidation. As a society, we cannot stand back
from this. But Government action alone cannot solve the problem.
Government needs to create the conditions in which individuals and
communities themselves take the initiative, to take control of their
neighbourhoods for the benefit of all. If we can cut crime, we can add
value to every aspect of life. Reducing crime and the fear of crime
enhances liberty and revitalises communities. The fight against crime is
an integral part of the Government�s commitment to make Britain a
better place to live.

The Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department
November 1999



Raising performance


Reducing burglary and property crime


Tackling vehicle crime


Dealing with disorder and anti-social


Dealing effectively with young offenders


Dealing effectively with adult offenders


Helping victims and witnesses

Government’s Crime Reduction Strategy, Contents

Date modified: 16 July 2001
Review date: March 2002
Originator: Home Office 

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