Murder rate falls as crime figures defy recession predictions
The murder rate in England and Wales fell by 14% to 550 homicides in 2011/12 – the lowest level since 1983.
Recorded crime also fell by 4%, continuing the long downward trend in crime since 1995, and dropping below 4m offences for the first time in 23 years.
The Office of National Statistics said violent crime fell by 7%, including a 2% fall in robbery.
The annual crime figures do show a 2% rise in some types of property crime, especially in unattended personal property such as garden sheds, pickpocketing and thefts of commercial materials, particularly metal theft. But the widespread crimes of burglary and car break-in and thefts have continued to fall.
The crime survey for England and Wales (CSEW), which used to be called the British Crime Survey, showed no change in overall crime levels against adults – continuing the same stable picture for the past three years.
The 14% fall in the murder rate last year reflects a sustained fall since the murder rate peaked in 2002/03, when more than 1,000 killings were recorded, boosted by the 172 attributed to Dr Harold Shipman.
John Flatley, head of crime statistics at the Office for National Statistics, said there was no clear explanation for the fall in killings.
He was sceptical of the idea that developments in medical science might be behind it, adding that there had been no sign of an increase in attempted murders.
He said two-thirds of homicides were domestic incidents.
Flatley also said the figures showed no sign of the increase in crime which many expected following the recession.
Both burglary and vehicle theft fell, fuelled by improvements in car and home security, he added.
Car radios and CD players were now harder to steal and worth less, he said.
The CSEW figures showed pickpocketing rose 17% in the two years since 2009/10 to 625,000 offences.
Thefts from gardens and sheds, including tools, equipment and furniture, also rose 10% to 1,371,000 from last year.
Around half of these were opportunistic thefts of garden furniture taken from outside a property, the ONS said.
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