Crime falls to new low despite cuts
Crime has fallen to a new low despite cuts to police budgets and another drop in the number of rank and file officers, official figures show.
But reported rapes have increased as more victims come forward to report historic sex attacks in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal. Fraud has also soared by 27%, prompting calls for more action to tackle cybercrime.
Overall, offences are down by 9% on last year - the lowest level since the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) began in 1981, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The data emerged on a day dubbed "police super Thursday" but was released amid warnings that forces have yet to feel the full effect of the Government's austerity measures and would be unable to cope with a repeat of the 2011 riots.
Steve White, the vice-chairman of the Police Federation, claimed some officers are now forced to work 14 days straight because numbers are stretched.
He spoke as a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) showed five police forces - in West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and Bedfordshire - would struggle to handle future cuts while others risk stretching crime prevention units after scaling back neighbourhood policing.
The ONS identified decreases in offences across nearly all the main categories of victim-based crime in its latest report. But it found theft from the person went up by 9% compared with the previous year, and sexual offences rose by 1% overall, with a 2% increase in rapes following the Savile inquiry.
Meanwhile, Home Office data showed the number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen for the fourth consecutive year - by 3.4% or 4,516 - taking the total to its lowest level since 2002. The biggest decline was seen in the Metropolitan Police which is down 1,742 officers (5.4%). Proportionally, the forces that decreased most dramatically in size were Staffordshire (down 118 officers - 6.1%) and the City of London (down 57 officers - 6.8%).
Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the crime figures as "good news" and thanked officers for their efforts at a "difficult time". Speaking during a visit to Hammersmith police station in west London, the Prime Minister said: "I think we should congratulate the police. As a Government we have asked them to do more with less resources. They have performed, I think, magnificently and I think all the work that has gone into crime prevention has helped as well. This is good news, that Britain is getting safer as well as stronger."
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper echoed his praise of police but warned "worrying evidence" suggested the service was being hollowed out. She called for more action to tackle cybercrime in the wake of increases in fraud and highlighted the "significant" decline in sexual cases referred to prosecutors despite an increase in recorded offences.