Zero Tolerance of Crime Will Clean Up Scots Streets

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COMMUNITIES were yesterday urged to "walk tall" against crime and adopt zero tolerance - even towards dropping litter.

Scottish law and order minister Henry McLeish wants people to make a stand no matter how minor the offence or anti- social behaviour.

He reckons widespread acceptance of "so-called petty crimes", including vandalism and graffiti, is dragging down entire communities.

And that makes them even more vulnerable to the headline-grabbing problems of violence, drug abuse and sex attacks, said Mr McLeish.

But critics accused him simply of using gimmicks and sound-bites, as well as being heavy- handed and over-simplifying the issue.

The minister also bluntly criticised councils for failing to keep streets clean.

He said: "I want every council to review what they are doing in terms of taking on graffiti and vandalism and littering.

"I don't want councils to tell me they don't have the resources for this.

"Often, it's not resources but lack of thought."

Mr McLeish made his comments as he unveiled a Government crackdown on lawbreakers.

It is outlined in a new document called A Safer Scotland - Tackling Crime And Its Causes.

Mr McLeish, who also examined confiscated weapons in Edinburgh, said the overall crime rate had fallen but offences involving drugs, violence or sex were proving difficult to tackle.

He said he wanted to develop Labour's well known election pledge: "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime".

Mr McLeish went on: "I know it will be difficult but I am asking Scots to walk tall.

"This is a war and there are many battles to be fought. People need to reclaim the streets."

He added: "I want to talk about the culture of crime.

"We can be far too complacent about second-rate services and standards in our communities.

"Mindless vandalism, graffiti and litter despoil our housing estates.

"The message is that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.

"People have a right to a decent home and decent community.

"But too many people are not exercising their responsibilities."

Mr McLeish said the Government had made available legal measures to deal with petty criminals, such as anti- social behaviour orders, and increased council powers to evict problem tenants.

The theory behind zero tolerance is that communities which refuse to tolerate graffiti and vandalism will prove more resistant to thugs, racists and drug dealers.

A similar initiative in New York is credited with transforming the city, which used to be one of America's most dangerous.

Mr McLeish stressed direct action was also being taken against Scotland's most serious criminals.

He said the war would be stepped up against drug dealers, including increased use of powers to confiscate their assets.

There will be legislation to weed out people planning to use a position of trust to abuse those in their care, and easier access to criminal- record checks on people wanting to work with vulnerable groups.

The Scottish Office will continue their publicity campaign to make domestic violence - which accounts for a quarter of all violent crime - socially unacceptable. Action will be taken to cut vehicle crime by 30 per cent, or 26,000 offences, over the next five years.

Scots police will also get an extra pounds 2. …