Risk of becoming victim of crime at 27-year low

The risk of becoming a crime victim is now at its lowest for more than 25 years following a sharp fall in the number of offences reported to police.

But a 9 per cent drop in the overall crime rate was marred by a 21 per cent rise in drug offences and a 4 per cent increase in gun crime.

Just days after Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, admitted she would not walk alone in London at night, ministers will be keen to point to an 8 per cent fall in violent attacks.

The continuing fall in the crime rate was revealed in the number of offences reported to police and in the British Crime Survey (BCS), which is based on interviews with the public.

Crime levels have been dropping since the mid-1990s, but there are signs that the fall is again gathering pace. The Home Office said the chance of a member of the public suffering any crime in a year was now 23 per cent, the lowest on record since the BCS was launched in 1981.

Police in England and Wales dealt with 1,240,800 offences in July to September last year, a fall of 9 per cent on the 1,359,100 reported to officers in the same period in 2006.

They included 253,100 violent attacks (down 8 per cent), 20,000 robberies (down 17 per cent) and 14,400 sexual offences (down 9 per cent). Police investigated 67,000 burglaries (down 8 per cent), 163,800 cases of car crime (down 12 per cent), 288,200 thefts (down 6 per cent) and 250,100 offences of criminal damage (down 11 per cent).

On the downside, police recorded 55,700 drug offences, a huge increase of 21 per cent. The Home Office said the rise coincided with the reclassification of cannabis from a class B to class C substance, which allowed officers to issue on-the-spot cautions instead of prosecuting offenders.

Separate figures showed that police recorded 10,182 firearms offences for the year ending in September, an increase of 4 per cent on the previous 12 months. But the rise mainly involved incidents in which no one was injured, or in which a gun was used simply to threaten.

The number of deaths from gunshot wounds fell from 55 to 49, and the number of serious injuries dropped from 438 to 368.

According to BCS calculations, 10,736,000 crimes were committed in Britain in the 12 months between October 2006 and September 2007. That is a 4 per cent fall overall and includes a drop of 2 per cent in violent attacks, of 4 per cent in car crime and of 4 per cent in vandalism, but a 5 per cent rise in burglary.

Ms Smith said: "These latest crime figures contain some excellent results and I am particularly pleased that the risk of being a victim of crime is now at a historically low level. Police- recorded violence against the person, robbery and burglary have fallen considerably compared with the same period [July to September] a year ago."

But David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, accused the Government of failing to get to grips with drug-fuelled crime. He said: "Drugs wreck lives, destroy communities and are a major symptom of our broken society. The Government's complacency shows they are part of the problem, not the solution."

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "Police should be devoting more time to stop-and-searches for knives and guns, and the Government needs to clamp down with a major new effort to stop gun smuggling.

"Nine times more officials are allocated to tackling cigarette smuggling than gun smuggling, which is a crazy set of priorities."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future