August 25, 2009 / 12:15 PM / 10 years ago

Tories liken street violence to "The Wire"

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s streets have become so blighted by violence, gangs and drugs under 10 years of Labour rule that some areas resemble the nightmare world of the hit U.S. cop show “The Wire,” according to the Conservatives.

A City of London police officer stands behind a cordon set up after a suspect package was found in front of the Bank of England in London March 31, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling says an urban war is being waged between gangs in many inner cities.

“Over the past decade, violence in our society has become a norm and not an exception,” he said in extracts of a speech to be delivered on Tuesday.

Grayling said the culture of violence and broken family life, a feature of U.S. cities a generation ago, is now widespread in Britain.

“The same is true of the culture of deprivation, harm, addiction and failure that is a feature of the worst US urban areas,” he said.

“It’s the world of the drama series ‘The Wire’ — a series that tracks the nightmare of drugs, gangs and organised crime in inner city west Baltimore,” he added.

“It’s a horrendous portrayal of the collapse of civilised life and of human despair.”

He highlighted areas such as Speke in Liverpool where he said violent crime and arson are up by more than 50 percent in a year.

Grayling added that since Labour came to power in 1997 violent crime has jumped nationally by close to 70 percent, citing Home Office figures.

He also said gun crime is up by more than half and that police are dealing with more than 100 serious knife crimes each day.

“Under Labour, fatal stabbings reached the highest level on record,” he added.

But the Home Office disputed his claim of a 70 percent rise in violent crime.

“We would not recognise the claim. The British Crime Survey, which is the best indicator of longer-term trends in crime, shows a 41 percent decrease in incidents of violence since 1997,” said spokesman Simon Barrett.

He said the claim may be based on police recorded crime. “But changes to police recording practices mean that figures prior to 2002-2003 cannot be compared with figures since then,” Barrett said.

He also said the number of murders in England and Wales are at their lowest for 20 years.

In a statement, Labour Home Office minister Alan Campbell said overall crime and drug use had fallen.

“Since 1997, crime has fallen by 36 percent, but we remain determined to crack down on drug-related crime and the harm it causes to communities,” he added.

Editing by Steve Addison

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