Crime falls to new low despite cuts

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Crime has fallen to a new low despite cuts to police budgets and rank and file numbers, official figures show.

But the number of reported rapes has risen by 2% in the past year, with the increase thought to be linked to the knock-on effect of the Jimmy Savile investigation.

Fraud has also soared by 27% though overall crime is down by 9% on last year - the lowest level since the Crime Survey for England and Wales began in 1981, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The data was released as the body representing rank and file officers warned forces would be unable to cope with a repeat of the 2011 riots as a result of Government austerity measures.

An additional one million offences - which are not included in the police figures - were dealt with by the courts in the year ending December 2012, the ONS said. These cover less serious crimes such as speeding offences. Steve White, the vice-chairman of the Police Federation, claimed some officers were being forced to work 14 days straight due to numbers being stretched.

Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the reduction as “good news”.

Speaking during a visit to Hammersmith police station in west London, the Prime Minister said: “I think we should congratulate the police. As a Government we have asked them to do more with less resources. They have performed, I think, magnificently, and I think all the work that has gone into crime prevention has helped as well. This is good news, that Britain is getting safer as well as stronger.”

The statistics were released as it emerged the number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen for the fourth consecutive year - by 3.4% or 4,516 - taking the total to its lowest level since 2002. The biggest drop was seen in the Metropolitan Police which is down 1,742 officers (5.4%), the Home Office said.

ONS crime statistician John Flatley said the number of sexual offences reported could continue to rise.

He said: “Around half of the forces have given us information to show 950 victims have come forward to report offences that happened more than 20 years ago. That’s obviously driving the overall figures up .It’s possible the wider Yewtree effect could lead to an increase in sexual offences reported for a period still to come. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these figures continue to rise over the next few months.”