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% on the previous year's figures of 10.5 million and the lowest level since 1981.
Almost every category of crime fell, including burglary and theft. It had been feared that such crimes would rise due to the economic downturn. Violent crime fell 1% year-on-year while vandalism fell by 11%. 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% 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, he said: “They are clearly down, but still too high.”
The Home Secretary Theresa May said the figures offer only a “partial picture” and warned 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.
“No society should accept a situation where at least 26,000 people a day fall victim to crime.”
The British Crime Survey is a questionnaire completed by 45,000 people. It is considered more accurate than police figures, since not all crime is reported. But figures released by the Home Office showed the number of crimes reported to police forces across England and Wales has also fallen, by 8% in 2009/10 compared to 2008/09.
The number of homicides — including murder and manslaughter — was 615 in 2009/10, 6% down on the previous year's 657. Recorded violent offences fell 4%, from 903,447 to 871,712.
There were some concerning figures. There was a 7% rise in the number of recorded serious sex offences and a 15% increase in the number of women who reported being raped, nearly 14,000 in 2009/10. Meanwhile, the number of crimes solved by police fell for every key offence group in 2009/10.