Crime levels hit 32-year low but stats show marked rise in fraud

Back of police officer in high vis jacket

7.tifCrime in England and Wales dropped by 9 per cent in the year ending March 2013, according to official figures, however cases of fraud increased by more than a quarter.

The annual Crime Survey for England and Wales from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated there were 8.6 million crimes in England and Wales. This represents a 9 per cent drop year-on-year and is the lowest since the survey began in 1981 and less than half the peak level from the Crime Survey of 1995.

The survey is based on crimes seen by the public but not always reported to the police. Official police figures seen by the ONS recorded 3.7 million offences in the period, a decrease of 7 per cent compared to the previous year and the lowest level seen in a decade.

Home Secretary Theresa May hailed the new figures as a “significant achievement” and a success story for the government’s policing reforms.

She said: “Police forces have shown an impressive ability to rise to the challenge of making savings while still cutting crime. This government has played its part by slashing red tape and scrapping targets to enable the police to focus on crime fighting.

“England and Wales are safer than they have been for decades, but we will continue to improve our national crime fighting capability when the National Crime Agency is fully operational later this year.”

While the overall figures were dropping, there was found to be increases in fraud (up 27 per cent year-on-year), theft (up 9 per cent) and sexual offences (up 1 per cent).

Figures suggest criminals are moving more towards online fraud.

Figures suggest criminals are moving more towards online fraud.

In the year ending March 2013 a total of 229,000 fraud offences were recorded by the police, which equates to 4 offences per 1,000 people. The increase in fraud cases has been attributed in part to the launch of Action Fraud, the centralised fraud recording service.

John Flatley, head of crime at the ONS, said: “This is a new area of crime that is on the rise. It is difficult to determine how much that is due to an increase in prevalence of crime or an increase in publicity for Action Fraud.”

The Association of Chief Police Officers said the overall drop in figures are testament the hard work undertaken by officers across England and Wales but warned the survey emphasised some key areas, including fraud, which pose challenges for the police as they look to improve services despite a reduction in their resources.

Deputy Chief Constable Jeff Farrar, national policing lead for crime and statistics, said: “Although police recorded crime is down by 7 per cent we are seeing some emerging trends. Data shows that fraud is up 27 per cent.

“Although this increase is partly down to the introduction of a more efficient centralised recording system, it also shows us that criminals are adopting new tactics and crime is moving away from more traditional forms to the online world.

“The need for policing to deliver safe and confident neighbourhoods and engage effectively with the public will remain so we are disappointed to also see in today’s figures that theft against the person is up 9 per cent. The major driver is the rising number of mobile phone thefts.”

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