Authoritative crime survey of England and Wales finds 20% drop in violent crime, 17% fall in criminal damage and 10% fall in theft
A record 14% fall in the last 12 months has taken crime levels in England and Wales to their lowest level for 33 years, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Crime has fallen across most types of offences, according to the authoritative crime survey of England and Wales with the largest falls in the 12 months to March including a 20% drop in violent crime, a 17% fall in criminal damage and a 10% fall in theft.
The figures also show that the number of police officers has fallen by a further 1,674 over the past year to 127,909, bringing the total cut in police numbers to 15,825 since 2010. Ministers linked the fall in police numbers to the fall in crime, saying that fewer officers were needed on the street.
The overall fall in crime has been accompanied by a 20% rise in sexual offences recorded by the police with the ONS putting the increase down to a surge in victims of historical sex abuse coming forward in the wake of the Jimmy Savile case and Yewtree investigations. A record 13,610 sexual offences involving a child under 13 were also recorded.
The overall police recorded crime figures show no change in the 12 months to March 2014 – the first flat year after 11 years of continuous falls on this measure.
The police figures include a 7% rise in shoplifting offences – one indicator of a growing austerity gap. The ONS said the rise to 321,000 cases a year was particularly concentrated in northern force areas including Merseyside (up 18%), Humberside (17%), Derbyshire (17%) and Durham (15%) but there was also a 16% rise in the West Midlands. London saw only a small 1% increase. Shoplifting now accounts for 9% of all police recorded crime.
The official statisticians said anecdotal evidence showed that the shoplifting figures represented a genuine increase in crime while a 6% rise in violence against the person and a 2% increase in public order offences were the result of better counting methods in the wake of major rows over the integrity of the police crime figures which have lost their “official statistics” status while an integrity inquiry is carried out.
Separate research published on Thursday into the “outcome” of crime investigations showed that no suspect is identified by the police in 52% of cases reported to them.
The crime survey of England and Wales, which is based on interviews with 10,000 people about their experience of crime, estimates there were 7.3m crime incidents involving households and adults over 16 in England and Wales in the year to March 2014.
ONS said this was 62% below the level in 1995, when crime peaked in England and Wales.
A further estimated 810,000 crimes were experienced by children aged 10 to 15, with 55% involving violence and 40% involving theft of their personal property.
The 20% rise in sexual offences recorded by the police includes a 27% rise in the number of rapes – an increase of 20,725 offences. The figures also show there were 13,610 sexual offences involving a child under 13 – an increase of 26% – and the highest reported total for at least 10 years.
“These increases should be seen in the context of the Operation Yewtree connected with investigations into Jimmy Savile and other celebrities,” says the ONS report.
“While some of these increases will be a direct consequence of the crimes reported as part of Operation Yewtree, there is evidence to suggest that there has been a wider ‘Yewtree effect’. This refers to an increased willingness on the part of the victims to come forward to report both historical and recent sexual offences.”
Norman Baker, the crime prevention minister, said that crime was down by 10% under the coalition government on both crime measures.
“This is further good news for England and Wales,” he said. “I am very encouraged by the continued significant drop in crime survey figures, a survey regarded internationally as the ‘gold standard’.”
He said that there were fewer demands on the police as a result of falling crime
“Crime goes down year on year so in that sense there is less for the police to do. Clearly that has an impact on the number of police officers you need on the street.”
Ch Con Jeff Farrar, spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the rises in sex offences, violent crime, fraud and public order, were the result of increased confidence in reporting crime, proactive policing and better recording practices.
From the Guardian