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Killings at 30-year low but fears of recession crimewave remain

We're safer than ever – just don't let your wallet out of sight

The number of killings in Britain has dropped to its lowest level in almost 30 years, it was revealed yesterday, with crime in general on a continued down trend.

Opportunistic theft, however, saw a rise of two per cent with stealing from gardens, pilfering metal, pickpocketing and taking unattended handbags and mobile phones the main causes.

Despite predictions that the economic downturn would see the same rise in crime as during the Eighties recession, this had proved not to be the case, the Office for National Statistics said yesterday as it published its annual Crime Survey for England Wales.

John Flatley of ONS said: "There hasn't been an up-turn in acquisition crime (theft) as you might have expected, and was seen in the 1980s recession, but we have seen a rise in thefts of unattended property and that includes metal."

Overall crime has continued to fall and was at its lowest for almost a quarter of a century. In total the survey recorded 10.5 million crimes though many were minor, unreported offences such as vandalism, with annual police recorded figures of 4 million – a drop of 4 per cent on the previous year.

Homicides, including murder, manslaughter and infanticide, fell a further 14 per cent to 550 a year, half of the number of killings in 2003 and similar to the rate in 1983. Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said the fall in murders had more to do with the fact we were simply returning to the situation in the early Eighties before there was a swift rise in killings during the last recession. He added there was a danger this could happen again.

"Living in an area where you are fighting over decreasing resources creates social conflict and, among other things, can lead to more homicides," Professor Garside said.

Worryingly one million children a year fall victim to crime, half of which is violent. The ONS survey of children between 10 and 15 found that 15 per cent of them had been a victim of crime over the past year.

Policing Minister Nick Herbert said: "Today's figures show that despite the challenge of reducing police budgets, crime has continued to fall. They give the lie to the spurious claim that there is a simple link between overall police numbers and the crime rate."

Ben Priestley, UNISON national officer for police and justice, said: "The progress being made in cutting crime rates is a credit to the hard work, skill and dedication of police officers and staff. However, the Government's plans to drastically cut police numbers... threatens to reverse that trend."

There was a swift rise in killings during the last recession and this could happen again