Shock as crime rates fall to their lowest level in 30 years

Crime in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 30 years according to new figures, confounding fears that the recession would lead to an increase in offending.

The number of crimes committed in 2009/10 was 9.6 million, according to the British Crime Survey. It is a drop of 9 per cent on the previous year's figures of 10.5 million and the lowest level since 1981.

Almost every category of crime fell, including acquisitive crimes such as burglary and theft. It had been feared that such crimes would rise due to the economic downturn. Violent crime fell 1 per cent year-on-year while vandalism fell by 11 per cent. Only robbery and street muggings increased.

The figures make particularly good reading for Labour, as they paint an impressive picture of the party's record on crime during its 13 years in power.

Since 1997, overall crime has fallen from 16.7 million offences a year to the 9.6 million figure announced yesterday. It is a drop of 43 per cent and is the first time the total number of crimes yearly has fallen below 10 million.

But Downing Street said yesterday that the figures are still too high. A spokesman for the Prime Minister, David Cameron, pointed out that 9.6 million equated to 26,000 crimes a day. Asked if he would congratulate Labour on the figures, he said: "They are clearly down, but they are still too high."

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said the figures offer only a "partial picture" and warned that a review of how offences are recorded and presented is in the offing.

Mrs May said: "There are many offences, including anti-social behaviour, which are not always reported or fully recorded, but which ruin too many lives. No society should accept a situation where at least 26,000 people a day fall victim to crime. We are determined to restore trust in crime statistics and are currently considering how they should be collected and published in future. We are working with the UK Statistics Authority and others."

The Shadow Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, MP, responded by saying: "These figures again demonstrate how impressively the police and other agencies tackled crime under Labour.

"But rather than congratulating everyone who has worked so hard to make our country safer, we now have the bizarre spectacle of Tory ministers trashing the official figures, which show undeniably that crime has fallen."

The British Crime Survey is a questionnaire completed by 45,000 people. It is considered more accurate than police recorded crime figures, since not all crime is reported. But the recorded crime figures released by the Home Office showed that the number of crimes reported to police forces across England and Wales has also fallen, by 8 per cent in 2009/10 compared to 2008/09. The number of homicides – which includes murder and manslaughter – was 615 in 2009/10, a drop of 6 per cent on the previous year's figure of 657. Recorded violent offences fell 4 per cent, from 903,447 to 871,712.

Amid the good news, there were some concerning figures, most notably that sex offences continue to rise. There was a 7 per cent increase in the number of recorded serious sex offences. And there was a 15 per cent increase in the number of women who reported being raped, nearly 14,000 in 2009/10.

Chief Constable Keith Bristow, the Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman on crime, said: "We have been particularly focused on our response to sex offences and we are encouraged by the increased reporting of these serious offences."

Meanwhile, the number of crimes solved by police fell for every key offence group in 2009/10.

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

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links