Murder rate at near 30-year low
The number of murders and other killings recorded by police fell to its lowest level in almost 30 years last year, figures have shown.
A total of 550 murders and cases of manslaughter and infanticide were recorded in 2011/12 - the lowest since 1983, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Overall, the total number of recorded crimes fell to below four million for the first time since 1989, dropping to 3,976,312.
But pickpocketing offences rose by almost a fifth (17%) over the last two years, according to separate figures from the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW).
There were some 625,000 such offences last year, compared with 523,000 in 2009/10, found the survey of more than 40,000 households. Thefts from gardens and sheds, including tools, equipment and furniture, also rose 10% to 1,371,000 from 1,245,000 in 2010/11.
Around half of these were opportunistic thefts of garden furniture taken from outside a property, said the ONS. And thefts of metal, wallets, mobile phones and unattended bags drove a 2% rise in so-called "other theft" offences (to 1,105,117 such crimes) following a 4% rise the previous year.
John Flatley, head of crime statistics at the ONS, said the number of homicides rose from around 300 per year in the 1960s to just under 1,000 a decade ago, before dropping since 2007/8 to 550 last year, the same as in 1983. Killings were down 14% from 638 in 2010/11. But Mr Flatley doubted claims that advances in medical science were responsible for the fall.
He said: "If you look at the trends in both murder and attempted murder, you'll see they're pretty similar, so I'm a bit sceptical about the medical science argument, because you would have expected attempted murders to go up as murders came down. We haven't seen that.
"What we do know is over two-thirds of homicides are committed by partners, ex-partners or other family members and that is what's driving the overall change. I haven't got an explanation as to what's causing that."
Policing Minister Nick Herbert said: "Today's figures show that despite the challenge of reducing police budgets, crime has continued to fall. They give the lie to the spurious claim that there is a simple link between overall police numbers and the crime rate."