THE Fight Crime Committee is under pressure to study the impact of unemployment on crime to highlight reasons behind the recent surge in offences. It is understood a group of legislators is seeking to push the committee to conduct the investigation. They want the committee, the advisory body on crime policy, to determine if the territory's 11-year peak in unemployment has fuelled the jump in crime. However, government officials - who have sought to play down the influence of unemployment, blaming the economy and immigration - say such a study would be difficult to conduct and of little value. 'This is a major concern of ours and we are fighting for some sort of study, including interviews with offenders,' said one committee legislator. 'This is the big issue at the moment and it is important we are seen to be doing something.' According to latest figures obtained by the South China Morning Post, crime has risen by 7.7 per cent in the first nine months of the year compared to the corresponding period in 1994. This represents a continuation of the upward trend recorded in the half-year statistics. Of major concern is a 2.5 per cent rise in violent crime. Crime Wing Chief Superintendent Mike Horner said unemployment was bound to be a factor in recent offence trends. But he doubted if the jobless rate, which in September was at the 11-year high of 3.5 per cent for the second month in a row, was the major factor. Mr Horner suggested illegal immigration and two-way permit holders had been more influential. For instance, offences linked to aiding and abetting illegal immigrants have risen 26 per cent so far this year. However, pickpocketing was again the biggest growth area with 742 offenders detected between January and September, a jump of 27 per cent on the same period in 1994. Police suggest it would be difficult to elicit candid responses from offenders on whether they were unemployed, casting doubt on any study's veracity. 'It would be difficult for us to provide any statistics on unemployment that would be able to be looked at accurately,' Mr Horner said. 'Unemployment must be one of the factors behind crime in any society, but how big a factor is open to debate. 'We take great heart in the major categories in crime where there has been a continual decrease. 'Our priority in the past few years has been robberies and firearms. 'This has been effectively targeted.' Only six robberies with genuine firearms had taken place in the nine-month period and these crimes using pistol-like objects, had also dropped. Earlier this year, the committee released a detailed report on the causes and responses to juvenile crime. It called for greater co-ordination between departments and a lenient stance for young people.