25/01/2005

Survey reveals falling level of some crimes

The overall crime rate in England and Wales is continuing to fall, according to the results of the British Crime Survey (BCS).

The survey showed that the overall crime rate fell by 11%, in the year ending September 2004. Police recorded figures for the period between July and September 2004 also showed a 6% drop compared to the same period the previous year and they also recorded falls in thefts (18%), vehicle crime (17%) and burglary (23%).

However, although the BCS reported a fall of 36% in violent crime since 1995 (including a fall of 9% last year), police recorded figures for July-September 2004 showed a 6% increase. It was claimed that this was due to better reporting of 'low level' thuggery, domestic violence and sex offences, the effect of new sex offence laws and the police service compliance with new standards of recording. The National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS), which was formally introduced to all police forces in April 2002, has led to some increases in crime figures, the government believe, because police are now recording crimes that were not previously recorded.

There was also a slight increase in firearms offences (5%) although the biggest rise in gun crime was in the use of imitation firearms (48%). The number of serious injuries caused by firearms fell by 5% as did threats involving firearms (9%) and the use of handguns (15%).

The BCS also reported that the risk of being a victim remained low at 25%, which was lower than when the BCS first started in 1981.

Home Office Minister, Hazel Blears, welcomed the figures, saying: "It is very encouraging to see that crime is continuing to fall. People are less likely to be a victim of crime today than they were 20 years ago and crimes that affect most people such as burglary, robbery and vehicle crime are still dropping dramatically."

However, Ms Blears said that the government was not complacent and admitted that there was still a lot of work to be done to combat alcohol-fuelled violence and gun crime.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Mark Oaten, said: "The rising tide of alcohol-related violence has happened under Labour and they must take responsiblity. Unless local authorities and local police are prepared, pressing ahead with plans for 24-hour licensing is a recipe for disaster. The best way to tackle crime on our streets is to scrap Labour's flawed plans for ID cards and use the money instead to put 10,000 more police on the beat."

Mr Oaten also called for more effective controls on guns coming into the UK and tighter restrictions on the sale of replica firearms.

(KMcA/SP)

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