CRIME continues to fall across the region, despite evidence the economic slump is driving some people to commit minor offences.

Data from the Office for National Statistics revealed an 11 per cent drop in recorded crime in the North-East in the year up to the end of March.

Durham saw the biggest fall with a 15 per cent reduction, while offences fell by nine per cent in the Cleveland Police area and by ten per cent in Northumbria.

Crime dropped in North Yorkshire by nine per cent during the same period.

In total, 172,486 crimes were recorded in the four police areas over the year.

Almost all categories of crime saw a decrease across the region, including violence, theft, criminal damage and arson.

Cleveland and Durham both saw small increases in burglaries, while sexual offences in North Yorkshire rose by 13 per cent.

In the Cleveland area, more recent figures for the first three months of April to June saw a rise in some types of what the force called “economically motivated crime”, such as vehicle crime, shoplifting and burglary of sheds, garages and commercial premises.

Cleveland Police’s Deputy Chief Constable Iain Spittal said he recognised households were facing “economic stress” and he urged people in difficulty to get help from public agencies and charities.

“Crime has reduced dramatically over the last ten years, and we will continue to focus our efforts on keeping crime and anti-social behaviour as low as possible given the tough economic climate,” he added.

Durham Deputy Chief Constable Michael Banks welcomed the fall in reported crime in his force area, but said the force would not be complacent.

“The Durham Constabulary area remains one of the safest places in the country to live, work and invest and we intend to keep it that way.”

North Yorkshire Chief Constable Dave Jones said the county had the lowest crime rate in the country.

“The latest crime figures are a good indication that North Yorkshire Police and our partner agencies are doing an outstanding job to drive down crime and tackle anti-social behaviour head-on,” he added.

The force said the rise in sexual offences was a “positive reflection of the confidence victims had in North Yorkshire Police, particularly those making historical complaints”.

Nationally, crime fell nine per cent despite cuts to police budgets and another drop in the number of rank and file officers.

Reported rapes increased as more victims come forward to report historic sex attacks in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Fraud has also soared by 27 per cent, prompting calls for more action to tackle cybercrime.