Crime 'at lowest level since 2004'
Crime is at its lowest level in Northern Ireland for almost a decade, official figures have revealed.
The national statistics study found there were about 165,000 incidents of crime between April 2011 and March 2012 - less than half the number recorded for the same period in 2003/04. The figures included a significant drop in vehicle thefts and vandalism.
DUP MLA Paul Givan, chairman of the Stormont justice committee said: "The raw data would indicate that Northern Ireland is becoming a safer place. But, the reality, I do not believe, is felt across the community, where the fear of crime is a very real issue particularly for elderly people."
More than 4,000 people were interviewed as part of the Northern Ireland Crime Survey (NICS) carried out on behalf of the Department of Justice. They were asked about crimes they may have experienced, including those that were not reported to the police.
Researchers found that the risk of becoming a victim of crime remains much lower in Northern Ireland than in England or Wales, with 11.2% of adults suffering at least one type crime during the 12-month period. The report said: "This represents the lowest NICS victimisation rate since the measure was first reported in NICS 1998 (23.0%)."
In England and Wales there were 2,428 household-related crimes compared to 1,309 in Northern Ireland. There were also almost half the incidents of vandalism in Northern Ireland (472) than in England and Wales (853).
Among the most common reasons cited for not reporting a crime was the belief that the matter was too trivial or because victims felt the police could not do anything.
Mr Givan said more must be done to reassure the community. He added: "People would regularly tell me that they do not bother telling the police about crimes because they feel it is not serious enough, or because they lack confidence as a result of the poor clearance rates.
"Community policing is fundamental in building confidence in the police service. That is going to a very long process and it involves engagement at grass roots level. I think the police need to be sending a very clear message that whatever type of crime it is, even if it is not serious, that you need to report that to the police."
The Northern Ireland Crime Survey is a representative, continuous personal interview of the experiences and perceptions of crime of adults living in private households throughout Northern Ireland. It offers an alternative but complementary measure of crime to offences recorded by the PSNI and is used to inform government policy.