Foreigners 'commit fifth of crime in London' ... ime123.xml
By Tom Harper and Ben Leapman
Last Updated: 11:47pm BST 22/09/2007

More than one crime in five in London is now committed by a foreign national, raising fresh fears over the impact of immigration.

Around a third of all sex offences and a half of all frauds in the capital are carried out by non-British citizens.

Poles, who have entered Britain in record numbers since they joined the European Union in 2004, committed 2,310 crimes in the first six months of this year to become the most prolific offenders.

Romanians, whose country became part of the EU in January, committed more than 1,000 offences — an eightfold rise on the same period in 2006, according to Metropolitan Police figures for solved crimes.

Criticism of the Government's immigration policy intensified last week when Julie Spence, the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire, revealed how the steady flow of Eastern European migrants with "different standards" was placing a huge strain on her rural police force.

Last night, other police chiefs backed Mrs Spence's comments.


Robert Beckley, the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset, said: "The new communities have certainly brought greater complexity to the pattern of crime, and are a strain on existing resources.

"A lot of these communities land without any attention and are expected to absorb into the landscape. As police, we have to adapt all the time to deal with the problems."

Mrs Spence claimed that she needed 100 extra officers to deal with the influx of immigrants to her county.

"When they arrive they think they can do the same thing as in the country that they came from," she said. "There were a lot of people who, because they used to carry knives for protection, they think they can carry knives here. And their attitudes to drink-driving are probably where we were 20 years ago."

Some Poles are illegally claiming child benefit both in Britain and in their homeland, a BBC Five Live report claims. Investigators found that among 1,500 families claiming UK child benefit in the Gdansk region, one third were claiming the same type of benefit from the Polish authorities.

Julie Spence, the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: "Every new piece of evidence shows how damaging the government's failure to control immigration has been. They have ignored the fact that uncontrolled movements of people can cause strains on society, as well as bringing economic benefits."

The eastward expansion of the EU in 2004 ushered in the biggest influx ever of migrant workers to Britain, after other countries, including France and Germany, refused to open up their labour markets to the new Europeans.

More than 600,000 people have arrived, more than half from Poland, and all with the right to live and work freely in Britain. Official statistics are so shaky that the true number is unknown.

Last year, a leaked memo from the then Home Office minister Joan Ryan warned that an estimated 45,000 potential criminals from Romania and Bulgaria – which joined the EU in January this year – would travel to Britain.

Last night, Mrs Spence's comments drew support from officers across the country, suggesting that a link between immigration and crime is being made nationally.

Mr Beckley said: "Chinese gangs have started to use kidnapping. And when I was assistant chief constable in Hertfordshire last year, we had an Albanian murder based on family clan issues."

Derek Benson, the Assistant Chief Constable of Essex, said his force was having to spend more on translators because increasing numbers of -Eastern Europeans were coming into contact with the police.

While the Government talks up the benefits of immigration, ministers privately admit that they fear a backlash from traditional Labour voters.

The local government watchdog, the Audit Commission, is aware of rising community tensions, particularly in rural areas.

A senior official, who asked not to be named, said: "These tensions invariably lead to crime. They don't know when to put the bins out, they are a noisy lot and often drink vodka on the street.

"We have found increased infringements around road safety issues. People are used to different rules and some can't even read the road signs.

"Something needs to be done locally to stop these tensions getting out of hand. The migrants don't know how to integrate." (Brackets denote position during same period last year) Total number of crimes per cent age change year on year Violent crimes Sex Offence Theft and handling