Burglaries increase by 14 per cent

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The Independent Online

Significant rises in burglaries and opportunistic thefts are creating a risk to the public, police chiefs warned today.

Burglaries rose 14% in 2010/11, the British Crime Survey showed, while police figures showed the number of thefts of unattended mobiles, wallets and purses from pubs, household property, from gardens, and metal or industrial equipment was up 10%.

Chief Constable Jon Murphy, head of crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), warned the high price of metal was fuelling a significant increase in metal thefts, with the British Transport Police reporting a 70% increase in the theft of cables.

"The high price of metal is driving what is a significant increase in metal theft due to the price of second-hand scrap metal," Mr Murphy said.

"This has a potentially significant impact on the national critical infrastructure and consequent risk to the public."

The theft of cables near Woking station in Surrey last month led to busy commuter trains grounding to a halt on one of the hottest days of the year, causing chaos on the railways.

Police chiefs were also studying the "emerging patterns of criminality" in burglaries and some other thefts, Mr Murphy said.

Overall, crime levels in England and Wales remained stable, but officials said the reductions seen since the mid-1990s were beginning to ease.

The British Crime Survey (BCS), based on interviews with tens of thousands of people in more than 45,000 households, showed burglaries rose 14% in 2010/11 compared with the previous year, when burglaries fell by 9%.

Overall, there was an easing of the falling levels of crime after "sustained reductions" since the mid-1990s, with an estimated 9.6 million crimes in 2010/11, compared with 9.5 million the previous year, the BCS figures showed.

Around one in 40 households had been victims of burglary or attempted burglaries in the last year, according to the survey.

Separate figures showed the number of crimes recorded by police fell slightly, down 4% to 4.2 million, compared with 4.3 million in 2009/10.

The figures for crimes recorded by the police also showed a 4% fall in burglaries.

David Blunt, the chief statistician at the Home Office, said: "No across the board rises in acquisitive crime were seen, but there are signs of increases for other theft."

Only time will tell whether the figures were heading towards a turning point which would see crime levels rise, he said.

"It will be interesting to see if some of these trends are continued. But at the moment we're talking about the falls that we've seen are now easing."

Explaining the apparent difference between the BCS figures and the police data, he added: "On the recorded crime front, the reduction in burglaries is fairly small, it's only down by about 10,000, so while it looks like there's a divergence, there's no strong evidence of a divergence between the two sources."

Crime and Security minister James Brokenshire said: "We have consistently argued that crime is too high and that is why our policing reforms are so urgently needed.

"Everyone has the right to feel safe in their home and local community.

"We want to make the police more accountable to the public they serve and ensure that local policing priorities are focused on what local people want, not on what central Government thinks they want."

The BCS figures also showed a 6% rise in violent crime, fuelled by a 35% rise in domestic violence and a 38% rise in assaults with minor injuries.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "After years of falling crime, these figures show the further progress people want is now at risk and there are some very worrying signs.

"Overall crime hasn't fallen this year, after a drop of over 40% during the Labour years.

"Now is not the time for the Government to take risks with community safety by cutting over 12,000 police officers. People want crime to fall further and the Government is doing nothing to help."

Blair Gibbs, head of the crime and justice unit at the Policy Exchange think-tank, added: "We need the police to raise their game.

"It is no surprise that burglaries are on the rise when the vast majority of criminals know that the police won't catch them.

"The years of falling crime are over. The rise in burglary is a real concern because of the traumatic effect it has on victims.

"The recession is certainly driving more property crime but unfortunately the police have taken their eye off the ball."

The officials who compiled the statistics said the small number of domestic violence victims in the British Crime Survey meant that the estimates were "prone to fluctuation from one year to the next".

Three quarters of all domestic violence incidents involved repeat victims, the BCS figures showed.

This, along with a 38% increase in the number of assaults leading to minor injuries, fuelled a 6% rise in the number of violent crimes overall, with 2,203,000 violent incidents last year.

Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in England and Wales, said: "Whilst it is pleasing that overall crime is still falling, it is extremely worrying that reported burglary statistics have risen by 14%.

"In May 2009 we warned Government that an additional 2,000 police officers would be required over the following three years to maintain the current level of service and we predicted a rise in property crime as the recession deepens.

"We take no pleasure in being right on this occasion."

He went on: "Today's statistics must serve as a stark warning to Government - stop, think and urgently reconsider the 20% cut to the police service.

"It's not too late to take the necessary steps to stop the inevitable criminal's charter that cuts of this magnitude will signal and to do what is right to ensure the safety and protection of citizens of this country."