Crime rates are falling rapidly, with the number of offences recorded by the police dropping by 12 per cent in a year.
The continuing decline – which includes a 19 per cent decrease in car crime and a 21 per cent fall in robbery – means the risk of being a victim of crime is at its lowest since the early 1980s.
There was, however, an increase in gun crime, with 9,967 offences recorded by the police in 2007, a 4 per cent rise on the previous year. Drug offences also rose, by 20 per cent, although the Home Office said that reflected recent guidance to police officers formally to caution people caught with cannabis.
The statistics were published yesterday as both ministers and the Opposition supported plans to give local communities more information about crime rates in their neighbourhoods. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, is urging police forces to disclose the information for each council ward. She believes it will help officers draw up crime-fighting priorities better to reflect the problems in each area.
David Cameron, the Conservative leader, went further yesterday and called for details of crime to be published on a street-by-street basis, a move which would inevitably have an impact on house prices. He said: "Crime really does spread like a disease – it is infectious and clusters around certain areas. By pinpointing exactly on a map where it's happening, the police can take appropriate action."
The steady overall fall in crime, which has continued for several years, was underlined by two sets of figures published yesterday: the numbers of offences recorded by the police in England and Wales between October and December 2007; and the Brit-ish Crime Survey (BCS), based on interviews with the public, for 2007.
The recorded crime statistics showed 1,208,600 offences were reported to police in the last three months of 2007, a fall of 12 per cent on the 1,369,200 recorded in the same period in 2006.
Overall, violent crime was down by 10 per cent, with an even sharper fall of 15 per cent in the number of the most serious offences. Sex offences fell by 8 per cent, domestic burglary by 5 per cent, car crime by 19 per cent and criminal damage by 17 per cent.
The BCS confirmed the trend, calculating that 10.4 million crimes were committed last year, a 6 per cent fall on 2006. Its figures attempt to calculate the actual number of offences rather than just those reported to the police. Car crime fell by 10 per cent, vandalism by 8 per cent, violent crime by 6 per cent and robbery by 2 per cent. Domestic burglary was the exception, with raids on homes going up by 5 per cent.
Separate figures showed the number of firearms offences recorded by police rose by 4 per cent last year. But the number of deaths fell from 56 to 49 and the number of serious injuries fell from 424 to 355.
Ms Smith said: "These are excellent statistics. I am particularly pleased to see sizeable reductions in recorded violent crime and robbery."
But opposition parties registered alarm over the levels of gun crime and drugs offences. Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokes-man, said: "Ministers must get tough on guns.
"We need more intelligence-led stop and search and greater police effort to win the trust of blighted communities, as that is the most effective way of pinpointing problems."
David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "Violent crime has doubled under this Government. The latest figures show that drug and gun crime continue to rise unabated.
"The rising tide of violence on our streets is the consequence of Labour's lax approach to law enforcement, and failure to address the causes of crime."
Crime in numbers
Criminal damage -17%
Drugs offences +20%
Home burglary -5%
Offences causing injury -11%
Serious violence -15%
Vehicle crime -19%
Sexual offences -8%
Overall crime -12%