Crime in England and Wales falls by 8%

Police officers, pictured from behind
Image caption The chancellor has announced plans to cut the police budget by 4% a year

Crime in England and Wales is continuing to fall according to both measures used by the government.

Crimes recorded by the police fell by 8% to 4.3m incidents over the year to June 2010, with large falls in car crime, criminal damage and burglary.

The parallel British Crime Survey (BCS) reported a fall of 4%.

Police said recorded sexual offences rose by 8%, but it is unclear whether that increase is because more victims are coming forward.

The Home Office and national statisticians use the two separate measures of crime to try to plot what is happening across England and Wales. They are combined into a single quarterly report.

The BCS interviews tens of thousands of people on a rolling basis in an attempt to identify crimes which may not have been reported to the police.

The BCS suggested that 57% of people now thought police in their local area were doing a good or excellent job, up slightly from 54% the year before. People also told the survey that their perception of high levels of anti-social behaviour was also falling.

Overall, the BCS said that the risk of being a victim of crime had now fallen to 21.5%, continuing a long-term national trend.

The BCS figures did indicate marginal increases in burglary, bicycle theft and other household theft. Officials believe these changes are statistically insignificant because of the way numbers vary slightly from quarter to quarter.

Overall police recorded violence fell by 4%, including a significant drop in the number of incidents that led to injury. The number of robberies, which includes street muggings, fell by 6% to approximately one incident per 4,000 people.

However, the police did record a 10% rise to 44,513 in the most serious sexual offences, which includes rape. They also recorded 237 rapes at knifepoint - a 20% rise on the 197 incidents during the previous 12 months. Overall recorded knife crime fell by 7% to 30,000 incidents.

'Real progress'

The statistics come a day after the chancellor announced plans to cut the police budget by 4% year-on-year, raising fears of major job losses in forces.

The total spending cut over four years amounts to between 14% and 20%, depending on how much money is raised via the council tax. Police fear that a cut of more than 12% would affect the front line.

Chief Constable Keith Bristow, head of crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said: "We remain determined to tackle people who commit sexual offences and we are making real progress in this critical area, particularly around giving victims confidence to come forward and report these crimes and we need them to do so."

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Victims of crime know that while any reduction in crime is welcomed, statistics only present a partial picture.

"There are still too many offences which ruin lives, whether they are recorded or not, and that means more needs to be done to bring down crime.

"It is unacceptable that each day on average more than 26,000 people fall victim to crime and the police report stubbornly high levels of violence - on average 1,000 people are injured each day."

But shadow home secretary Ed Balls said the figures showed Labour had got it right on crime.

"I hope the home secretary will now finally admit that crime fell substantially under Labour, helped by a record number of police officers, and that the risk of being a victim of crime is at a 30-year low," said Mr Balls.

"By failing to protect funding for the police in the Spending Review, the home secretary is taking huge risks with the public's safety, crime and national security."