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Mr. Denham [holding answer 18 July 2002]: The Home Office in association with the trade association for credit card companies has set up a two-year pilot of a unique policing unit, the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit. The unit, based in London, was launched in April 2002, with the Home Office providing 25 per cent of the funding requirement.
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The Home Office is also actively supporting the credit card companies in their work towards implementation of Chip and personal identification number (PIN) by April 2005. Under this initiative, microchips will be introduced into payment cards to help authentication. This will be combined with the introduction of PIN as a more secure method of authentication than signature.
Officials are in frequent contact with the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) to discuss and encourage implementation of other credit card fraud reduction initiatives such as verification of Internet transactions.
Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 17 June 2002, Official Report, column 102W, on crime and disorder partnerships, what action he intends to take to ensure that police authorities obtain the views of people on the changes to policing. 
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his estimate is of the number of offences committed in each police authority area in England in each reporting period since 199596; and if he will make a statement. 
The period requested covers the change in counting rules for recorded crime on 1 April 1998, and the boundary change involving the Metropolitan Police on 1 April 2000. Some forces adopted the principles of the National Crime Recording Standard in advance of its national implementation on 1 April 2002. This may inflate the number of crimes those forces recorded.
|Police force area||Number of offences|
|Avon and Somerset*||152,886||156,557||143,128||144,556||131,955||150,089||147,104||149,254||178,991|
|Devon and Cornwall||102,193||103,121||94,828||92,800||88,484||110,644||110,361||102,853||101,425|
|London, City of||5,727||4,831||5,130||5,137||6,035||7,144||7,775||8,255||10,098|
(1) The number of crimes recorded in that financial year using the coverage and rules in use until 31 March 1998.
(2) The number of crimes recorded in that financial year using the expanded offence coverage and revised counting rules which came into effect on 1 April 1998.
(3) New boundaries for the police force areas of Hertfordshire, Essex, Metropolitan Police and Surrey came into effect on 1.4.2000. These figures are the totals for the new areas in the previous year.
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Mr. Denham: Recorded crime statistics collected centrally do not identify the age of the victim, and therefore the requested information is not available for individual police forces. Information on the age of victim is only available from the 2000 sweep of the British Crime Survey (BCS). The BCS estimates that in 1999 there were 273,000 personal crimes in England and Wales committed against those aged 65 and over. Those aged 65 and over represent 20 per cent of the population for England and Wales, but only experience 4.9 per cent of all personal crimes. The BCS also estimates that there were a further 1,090,000 household crimes against households headed by persons aged 65 or over. These BCS figures cannot be reliably broken down to constabulary level.
Personal offences here covers assault, robbery, theft from the person, other personal theft. Household offences here covers bicycle theft, burglary, theft in a dwelling, other household theft, theft of and from vehicles and vandalism to household property and vehicles. The BCS does not cover crime against those not living in private households, for example in care homes.
Mr. Denham: British Crime Surveys show that elderly people are far less likely to suffer crime than younger people. But we recognise the impact that crime can have on elderly people. In addition to the work we are pursing to reduce crime generally, we have funded several schemes specifically to tackle crime against the elderly.
We have set up a Distraction Burglary Task Force, with £1 million Home Office funding, to gather data, publicise good practice, raise awareness and provide guidance for victims of this type of burglary, which is committed predominantly against the elderly.
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We have funded a two-year programme to provide home security upgrades for low income pensioners in areas with burglary rates above the national average. This scheme runs in conjunction with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA's) Warm Front scheme, which provides heating and insulation improvements. By the end of May, some 114,000 eligible homes had been surveyed, of which over 58,000 are receiving additional locks or bolts.
We know that people over the age of 65 are among the most likely to fear crime despite being the group least likely to become a victim of crime. Research suggests this may in part be because the impact of crime can be far more traumatic for the elderly and vulnerable than for those of a younger age.
We are working closely with Age Concern and Help the Aged to identify ways to tackle misperceptions about the risk of victimisation and also to educate the elderly as to the sensible precautions they can take to protect themselves. The Home Office are seeking to run a workshop at the Help the Aged annual conference in October during which these issues will be addressed; solutions identified will be incorporated into the Home Office strategy for reducing the fear of crime.
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