The Associated Press
LONDON- Robberies rose in Britain last year, but the number of murders fell and overall crime remained stable, official figures showed Thursday.
Police said the 8 percent increase in the number of robberies was being fueled by thieves' attraction to the expensive electronic items many Britons now carry, including mobile phones, e-mail devices and digital music players.
Commander Simon Foy, of London's Metropolitan Police, said the increase had slowed toward the end of the April 2005-March 2006 period covered by the new numbers.
"We know we have got a problem, and we have done quite a lot about it," he said.
A second set of numbers also released Thursday, based on surveys asking people whether they had been victims of crime, found robbery increased by 22 percent. The 8 percent rise was in crimes reported to police.
The government said violent crime recorded by police had increased to 1.2 million incidents, up 2 percent from the previous year. Most of that rise was caused by the robbery spike, with more serious violent crime falling by 13 percent, officials said.
Murders fell by 12 percent to 765, despite the killing of 52 people in the July 2005 suicide bombings, reported the Home Office, Britain's interior ministry.
Crime overall was stable, the government said, with one of the surveys reporting a 1 percent drop and the other a 1 percent increase.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has made battling crime a key domestic priority.
David Davis, law-and-order spokesman for the opposition Conservative Party, said he was alarmed by the rise in robbery and violent crime rates.
"This is a direct consequence of the government's failing policy of tying up our police in red tape, instead of putting them on the streets to deter and catch criminals," he said.