The number of criminal offences fell by 10 per cent over the past 12 months to a 32-year low, according to the most authoritative measure of crime levels.
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), based on interviews with the public, estimated there were eight million incidents of crime in the 12 months to the end of September, the lowest figure since it was established in 1981. It found that violent crime dropped by 13 per cent and overall household crime, including burglary, fell by 10 per cent.
Meanwhile, police recorded 3.7 million offences over the period, a fall of three per cent, although there were rises in levels of shoplifting, mugging and fraud, crimes that could be linked to tough economic times.
Sexual offences leapt by 17 per cent, a rise attributed to the “Yewtree effect”, which has led to a surge in numbers of victims coming forward following revelations about Jimmy Savile’s predatory behaviour and the prosecutions of other celebrities.
The figures were released this morning by the Office for National Statistics.
The recorded crime figures are the first to be released since they were stripped of the official “gold standard” mark by the statistics watchdog amid accusations they were being manipulated by the police.
They showed a four per cent rise in shoplifting and a seven per cent increase in theft from the person.
Most police force areas reported a fall in recorded crime with the exceptions of Northumbria, City of London, and British Transport Police, which showed a one per cent increase, and Cumbria, Gwent, Humberside and Merseyside which showed no change.
Kent had an eight increase but this is thought to be largely due to a change in recording practices.
The Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said: “Both the recorded crime statistics and the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales show that police reform is working and crime is continuing to fall. Overall, crime has fallen under this coalition government by more than 10 per cent according to the Crime Survey and this is mirrored by the fall in police recorded crime since 2010.
“England and Wales are safer than they have been for decades with crime now at its lowest level since the survey began in 1981.”