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Crime booming in Britain

LONDON, England -- Britain has more victims of crime than any other country in the developed world except for Australia, a survey reports.

The survey, published in the Economist on Friday, revealed that the English and Welsh ran the greatest risk of having their car stolen compared to other rich nations.

It also said that after Australia, they were the most likely to be assaulted, robbed, sexually attacked and burgled.

Britain's Home Office Minister Paul Boateng said: "We have unacceptably high levels of some crimes, but the overall picture is getting better.

"The British Crime Survey shows crime down 10 percent since 1997."

The 2000 International Crime Victims Survey, published by the Dutch Ministry of Justice, asked 34,000 people in 17 countries about their experience of crime.

The countries at the top of the crime premier league also included the Netherlands and Sweden, while middle-range crime countries included Scotland, Denmark, France and the U.S.

Prison growth

Switzerland, Finland and Japan were at the bottom end of the list.

The figures, coming two or three months before an expected general election, are likely to cause concern to British Prime Minister Tony Blair who came to power four years ago pledging to be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime."

Boateng said government plans to increase police numbers and create 2,500 more prison places would help, but that the problem stretched further.

"The roots and causes of crime are greater than simply number of police or numbers of people sent to prison -- they lie in issues of social exclusion and disadvantage."

But Boateng and other experts are still uncertain about the main reason affecting Britain's crime levels.

He said: "There are lessons to be learnt from this survey and we are determined to learn from them."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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