The right wing press and New Labour are in full agreement: Britain is in the grip of an unprecedented crimewave.
Waves of legislation emerge from the Home Office to penalise vandals, shop-lifters and 'yobs'. Anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) are thrown like confetti and vast swathes of petty crimes are made arrestable offences.
And yet the British Crime Survey suggests that crime is at its lowest level for nine years. Fed by a hysterical media, the fear of crime has grown out of all proportion to crime itself.