By politics.co.uk staff
Gordon Brown has launched a thinly-veiled attack on David Cameron for stoking fear of crime to 'panic' levels.
The prime minister also focused his fire on anti-social behaviour, resurrecting themes he concentrated on during his speech to the Labour party conference last year.
Mr Brown pledged to introduce a phone line as easy to call as 999 when people wanted to cite behaviour they found threatening or disruptive.
He promised a new, tougher Asbo process, and that all breaches of Asbos would result in prosecution.
During a speech on crime, Mr Brown cited the manipulation of crime statistics as a habit which was cultivating fear of crime.
"Let me again say to those who don't understand - and to those who don't wish to understand - you don't tackle the fear of crime by cultivating it, by ramping up a public sense of panic, by abusing the figures and claiming our society is broken," Mr Brown said today.
"I know crime is an emotive issue. But I say to you - we do have a responsibility to have that debate honestly - and to deal in facts, not fear.
"As bad as the fear of crime is the crime of fear. And I will play no part in that."
Mr Brown insisted that the risk of being a victim of crime today is at its lowest since the British Crime Survey began.
But he recognised that there was a strong fear of crime on the streets of Britain which was at odds with the statistics.
"Statistics are important and we need to get them right - but statistics are no comfort to someone who's scared to walk past a group of young people on the street for fear of abuse," the prime minister said.
Mr Brown also used to speech to demand police funding was ringfenced against cuts by local authorities.
"Police funding in this country has always and rightly been part national, part local," he said.
"So my challenge to local authorities and police authorities around the country is to match our commitment to protecting front line policing - or else explain to their communities why they are not prepared to do so."