September 30, 2002. Put This Date in Your diary.That's When Tony Blair Says He'll Have Street Crime under Control

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Byline: DAVID HUGHES

TONY BLAIR signalled yesterday that the crime wave sweeping the streets was a full- scale national emergency after pledging to bring it 'under control' by September.

In an extraordinary step the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Cabinet's COBRA crisis committee to mastermind the crackdown.

COBRA is designed to deal with grave national crises and can call on the full resources of the armed forces and the security service.

Under Labour it has been deployed to deal with the fuel price protests, the foot-and mouth epidemic and the September 11 terrorist threat.

Now it appears to have been mobilised to defeat the muggers, thieves and thugs who are making life a misery in many urban areas.

The move was described by the Tories as a 'massive own goal'.

They said that after five years in power Labour was admitting it has lost control of the law and order agenda.

In fierce Commons clashes with Iain Duncan Smith, the Prime Minister took the enormous gamble of actually setting a date for ending the epidemic of violence and robberies.

Mr Blair said that street crime had fallen in London in recent weeks due to Metropolitan Police action.

'As a result of the additional measures being taken, we are confident that by the end of September, we will have brought this problem under control,' he declared.

But Mr Duncan Smith taunted Mr Blair mercilessly over the failure of the courts to use deterrents introduced by the Government such as child curfew orders and antisocial behaviour orders.

Pouring scorn on what he called Home Office 'stunts' and low detection rates, the Tory Leader said: 'Criminals now don't need to run from the scene of a crime - they only need to walk.

'There have been 50 stunts and initiatives since the Home Secretary took office. If stunts and initiatives stop crime, can you tell us how many muggings there are in London?' Mr Blair acknowledged that street crime in the capital had gone up in recent years but said it had fallen overall and burglary and car crime was down 'significantly'.

But Mr Duncan Smith pointed out there were 192 muggings a day in London, 50 more than last year - 'one for every initiative that your Home Secretary has introduced since he came to office'. …