The final set of crime statistics to be released before the election showed that crime in Britain continued to fall.
Yesterday's figures from the Home Office revealed that the number of offences recorded in England and Wales fell by 339,473 in 2009 compared with 2008 – a drop of 7 per cent.
The number of crimes last year was 4,448,273 – the lowest since Labour came to power in 1997 and a definite boost for the Government as the parties prepare to go to the polls.
Violent crime, burglary and robbery all fell last year. Only sexual offences showed an increase, rising by 2 per cent to 53,239. The level of gun and knife crime also fell, including a 21 per cent drop in fatal stabbings.
The figures were accompanied by a British Crime Survey (BCS) report, compiled using 46,000 interviews, which also showed a 7 per cent fall in crime. The survey found the risk of becoming a victim of crime is at a 30-year low. But, despite a 3 per cent decrease in recorded violent crime, the survey revealed a 4 per cent increase in serious violent crime.
The BCS survey showed that 1,120,000 violent crimes were committed in 2009 in which the victim was injured; the corresponding figure for 2008 was 1,081,000. The figures mean that, on average, a violent assault happens once every 30 seconds.
Yesterday police chiefs welcomed the overall findings of the surveys. Chief Constable Keith Bristow, who has national responsibility for managing crime, said: "The latest recorded crime statistics and British Crime Survey results show police and community safety partners are making communities safer. These [results] are a strong indication of the dedication of our workforce to keep the public safe."
Overall, thefts fell by 4 per cent, but bicycle theft rose by 8 per cent to 112,169, meaning that on average 307 bicycles are stolen every day.
Labour seized on the figures as proof that it has kept its promise to be tough on crime. Responding to rival parties' claims that crime is on the rise, Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, said: "If we are going to have an honest debate on crime then we need Chris Grayling to finally accept what repeated surveys all confirm: that crime has fallen and is still falling."
Mr Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, welcomed the figures but said they were not proof that Labour had improved the safety of the public.
"We still live in a more dangerous country than when Labour came to power," he said. "The Government has presided over a surge in violence, while Labour's target culture means the police spend more time on paperwork than on the beat. Knife crime remains a serious concern on our streets and Conservatives will make tackling it a priority. Too many families have their lives ruined by low-level crime and antisocial behaviour. This has got to change."
His Liberal Democrat counterpart, Chris Huhne, said: "The fall in crime is encouraging but we must continue to be vigilant... Fear of crime is still far too high and only half of people think that the police are dealing with the crime and antisocial behaviour that matters to them.
"Labour and the Tories are not going to restore public confidence by refusing to protect police numbers. The Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to putting 3,000 more police on the beat."
Burglars steal tory MP's car
A CAR and a laptop computer were stolen from the home of the shadow Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, yesterday. The burglary happened at his home in Tower Bridge, central London. The Tory MP reported the crime at 7.20am. He is thought to have slept through it. He later told reporters it was "not a nice feeling". The Scotland Yard Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, said he was sorry the politician had suffered such a "heinous offence".