LONDON (Reuters) - The level of crime in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest since records began in 1981, figures showed on Thursday. The annual British Crime Survey (BCS) showed offences fell by 9 percent to 9.6 million in 2009/10, allaying fears a deep recession would cause a jump in criminality.
The BCS is a collation of people’s perceptions of crime and is one of the largest social surveys conducted in Britain. It is not related to actual crime figures but is still a closely watched indicator of overall crime trends.
The Office of National Statistics interviewed more than 45,000 households for the study.
Actual crimes recorded by police forces across England and Wales fell by eight percent to 4.3 million offences, a separate report released by the Home Office showed.
Home Office officials said taking the two statistical reports together, there had been a “notable” fall in theft, burglary and fraud, but that levels of violent crime were largely unchanged.
Home Secretary Theresa May welcomed the drop, but said levels of crime were still unacceptably high.
“No society should accept a situation where at least 26,000 people a day fall victim to crime,” she said, adding that the statistics offered only a partial picture about the true level of crime.
She said too many offences, including anti-social behaviour, were not always reported.
May reiterated her plans to reform policing and make forces more accountable to their communities.
From next January, she said, the government would ensure crime figures would be published that reflected what was going on in local communities.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said the figures were encouraging, with all categories of recorded crime, apart from sexual offences, showing a fall.
Sex crimes in the last year rose by 54,000 according to police figures — a 6 percent increase.
ACPO head Chief Constable Keith Bristow said this could reflect the police’s effort in the area, including getting more victims to come forward.
Both sets of crime figures show the number of offences is lower than when the last Labour government came to power in 1997.
The figures were published as industry magazine Police said budget cuts in the police service in England and Wales could lead to 60,000 police officers and civilian posts being axed by 2015.
ACPO’s Bristow said: “Like many sectors, policing will be expected to deliver more for less.
Editing by Steve Addison